Walt Walker, the outgoing chairman of the Society of Plastics Engineers Thermoforming Division, received the Lifetime Achievement Award Sept. 21 at the group's annual conference in Minneapolis.
Walker, who served his two-year term as SPE Thermoforming chair from June 2006 to June 2008, is executive vice president and chief operating officer of Prent Corp. in Janesville, Wis., one of the largest thermoformers of packaging for the medical and electronics industries.
In his introductory remarks at the awards dinner, division Chairman Brian Ray praised Walker for raising the bar for the U.S. plastics industry by developing new training standards.
``Because of Walker's reputation for developing highly skilled workers and his rigid training standards he was instrumental in creating the first-ever national skills certification and standards for machinery operators and this included an exam,'' Ray said.
In March 1999, those efforts led to Walker's election to the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s national certification in plastics board of governors.
Walker singled out industry veteran Stan Rosen, who convinced him to join SPE, among the people he credits with making him a successful businessman.
``There are a lot of people who have influenced me, to make me the person that I am,'' Walker said. ``I like to consider myself a team player, and I'll do things for the benefit of the team, rather than be the leader and take the credit.''
Before joining Prent a dozen years ago, Walker spent 15 years at 3M Co., working in product development, new business ventures and research and manufacturing.
Ray told a story about Walker's time with 3M: Several years ago, Walker and a co-developer of a chemical weed killer for lake beds were test-spraying on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota using an airboat. Walker was at the helm as the other man ordered a run in-between a swimming raft and a moored floatplane. Sensing that the distance was too close, Walker cut the boat's huge propeller but the craft's momentum carried it slowly into the empty aircraft.
``The airboat hit the airplane with the fan still going, and after that he started [at] Prent Corp.,'' Ray said, joking.
In addition to giving speeches at various plastics industry conferences and trade shows, Walker serves on the curriculum advisory boards of several Wisconsin schools that are working to improve math, science and English curricula.
Walker and his wife, Barbara, have six grown children and 13 grandchildren, all of whom live in the Janesville area.