A few weeks ago, I drove over to Rose Ryntz's office in Troy, Mich., to interview her on a recent accomplishment.
If you haven't heard yet, the 61-year-old vice president of advanced development and material engineering at International Automotive Components Group is this year's winner of the Society of Plastics Engineers' Lifetime Achievement Award. She'll receive the award Nov. 7 during the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala in Livonia, Mich.
Anyway, Ryntz and I sat down in her office and I asked her a few questions about her past.
What did she want to be when she grew up? A commercial artist, a veterinarian, a horticulturist or a doctor were among her early possibilities. "I knew I wanted to be scientific," she told me. "The first science class I took, I loved it."
Who influenced her the most? Her mother. "She was an artist," Ryntz said. "She had a beautiful voice. She could play musical instruments, and everybody absolutely loved her."
Ryntz, whose 30-plus-year career has led to big innovations in automotive plastics such as damage-resistant fascias, is well-known in the industry. Follow her name, and you'll find a lengthy list of accolades that show just how much energy and dedication she has put toward her work.
People close to her know she has a twin sister, enjoys gardening and has a second home in Florida — a common choice for those of us in Michigan who can't standing the bone-chilling winters — but, I wondered, what is something someone might be surprised to learn about Ryntz?
"That I'm really shy," she replied. "It doesn't seem like I am, does it? But I have to go out of my way not to be."
She thought through the question again before coming up with another hidden trait.
"I believe in ghosts," Ryntz said, matter-of-factly. "My house was haunted."
Ah, I had discovered a common thread between us. My childhood home, built in 1880, also had an otherworldly visitor — or so my parents tell me. They've got stories, too, including the time my mother told me the ghost's name was Emma.
I asked my mother how she knew that. To which she responded, matter-of-factly, "Because the ghost marked 'Emma's birthday' on our calendar."
If you want to know the spooky details involving Ryntz's haunted home — a tragic death, temperature changes, glowing orbs, a trip to New Orleans and a very Canadian offering of a six pack of beer were among the highlights — you'll have to ask her for yourself at the awards gala.
"You would think a scientist wouldn't believe in ghosts," she said to me. "But I've actually seen them and lived with them."