Robert Sherman, who worked for more than 40 years as a plastics engineer and industry trade official, died from natural causes on July 29. He was 82.
Sherman retired in 1992 after a 23-year career with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. During his SPI career, Sherman was instrumental in organizing the group's Midwest office. At the time of his retirement, Sherman was SPI's vice president of divisions, regions and membership. He also organized divisions for mold makers and for expanded polystyrene while at SPI.
Prior to joining the Washington trade group, he worked in a variety of roles at materials maker Union Carbide Corp. for 20 years. Sherman's accomplishments at Carbide included helping the company form a polyethylene supply contract with Tupperware Brands Corp. that lasted for many years.
Sherman was still a student at New York's Columbia University when he began working for Carbide as part of a work-study program in the late 1940s. His first job at Carbide was planning and scheduling the purchase and delivery of raw materials for the firm's plant in Bound Brook, N.J.
Sherman served in 1966 as president of the Society of Plastics Engineers, a group that he had joined in 1958. He also was a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association, an industry group that recognizes accomplishment in the plastics industry. PPA inducted Sherman in 1995.
He later served as PPA president and was recognized as its Member of the Year in 2002. In 1999, he won PPA's Much Traveled Shirt — an award named after a garish shirt a member wore to a meeting in 1954 — which recognizes a PPA member who typifies the spirit of the group.
In an interview now stored at The Plastics Collection at Syracuse University, Sherman credited his grandfather with helping him take the first step toward a career.
“My grandfather got me interested in machinery,” he said. “He used to take me into the basement of his home and I was amazed at how he worked with machinery. He was a cabinetmaker and taught me at a very young age to understand and respect his art.”
Industry consultant Glenn Beall was a longtime friend of Sherman's. When Beall went into business for himself in 1968, Sherman was one of the first people who referred business to him.
“Bob was very instrumental in helping me get up and running,” Beall said in a July 31 phone interview. “He really helped me out. He was a good guy who really knew the industry, and he was a longtime supporter of plastics education.”
After retiring from SPI, Sherman worked as a consultant on a variety of projects for the metalworking industry before retiring for good in 2002.
Sherman looked back on his career in his interview in The Plastics Collection.
“I have to conclude that being a novice at the beginning of the post-World War II industrial revolution, I am more than fortunate to have had the many experiences described here,” he said. “It has been a wonderful experience.”