Joseph Prischak, a Plastics Hall of Fame member who founded Plastek Group in 1956, died May 21 at age 91.
Plastek CEO Dennis Prischak announced the news on social media. Dennis is one of four of Joseph Prischak's sons who now hold senior roles at the company.
Joseph Prischak was named to the 2021 Plastics Hall of Fame class, which was just formally inducted May 2 in Chicago. The ceremony was originally scheduled to take place at NPE in May 2021.
Prischak was born in West Aliquippa, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and the family moved to a farm when he was 8 months old.
He attended Conneaut Valley High School, near Springboro, Pa., where he took vocational agriculture classes, including a machine shop course.
"They taught us the basics and that's where I got the desire to learn more," Prischak said in a 2021 interview with Plastics News. Asked if he had a talent for it, he said: "Well, I don't like to brag, but I like to be the best in everything I do, or I don't want to do it."
He graduated in 1946 and moved to Erie at age 18, where he worked bussing tables and other jobs. Before long he was hired at Erie Resistor Corp., one of the first companies in the United States to own an injection molding machine.
Then came a turning point. Prischak was earning 35 cents, and the company offered him a nickel raise. Top money was 45 cents an hour.
"I went to the boss and I said, 'Look, I think I deserve top money. I think I'm worth 45 cents an hour. I'm only making 40 cents.'"
When the company's partners said no, Prischak quit. In 1956, he and two partners founded Triangle Tool Co., which was the beginning of Plastek. The company started injection molding in 1971, with nine injection molding machines for molding safety razors.
It wasn't long before Plastek got a major contract to mold oval deodorant sticks, which launched major growth for the company. Today Plastek is No. 24 in Plastics News' ranking of North American injection molders. It also has plants in Europe and South America.
Plastek was also the 2020 Plastics News Processor of the Year, as well as the winner of the PN Excellence Award for customer relations in 2017 and for public service in 2018.
Prischak is considered the father of the plastics engineering technology program at Penn State Erie, which has produced more than 1,000 graduates and is the largest undergraduate plastics program in the country. In 1984, local plastics industry leaders approached Penn State Behrend in Erie about starting a plastics program to ease the always-present shortage of skilled workers.
Prischak and other local leaders worked closely with John Lilley, the college's provost and dean, to start the plastics engineering program.
Prischak later helped start a plastics engineering program at Richmond Community College in Hamlet, N.C., near another Plastek plant. The program today is housed in the school's Joseph J. Prischak Engineering Technology Center. Joseph and wife, Isabel, have donated $1 million for Plastek employees and their families to attend Penn State Erie, plus another $1 million for students from his high school.
Prischak was company CEO at Plastek until 2002, when he became chairman and left his sons in charge.
Prischak also supported numerous local charities and set up a foundation called Africa 6000 International to build water wells and irrigation projects in Africa.