Joseph Prischak is a celebrity in Erie, Pa., and his family-owned custom molder, Plastek Industries Inc., is one of the biggest employers in that plastics-centric region.
Prischak's reach has extended beyond the United States, and the plastics industry to include leading an international effort to improve drinking water for people in developing nations.
He was one of the driving forces behind Penn State Erie's vibrant four-year plastics engineering technology program, which had its first graduating class in 1989. Graduates from Penn State Erie often stay in the area — a huge benefit to local plastics companies. That's nearly 1,000 graduates so far.
Prischak liked it so well he founded a similar program at the University of Bratislava, in Slovakia, and at Richmond Community College's main campus in Hamlet, N.C., where the company runs a plant.
And Joe and his wife, Isabel Prischak, donated $1 million for Plastek employees and their families to attend Penn State Erie. They donated another $1 million for students from his high school, Conneaut Valley High School, to attend the school.
Plastek has created apprenticeship programs for toolmakers, and has other internal educational programs for processors, tool repair and machine mechanics.
Those efforts, and more, are why Plastek Industries has won the Plastics News Excellence Award for industry and public service. Joe Prischak deserves credit for extending his reach beyond — sometimes far beyond — plastics, and even the United States.