Proud of our past... Secure in our future'

The Plastics Academy - History

The First Induction Ceremony

In October of 1972, Editor-in-Chief, Sid Gross, released an announcement that Modern Plastics magazine, in cooperation with The Society of the Plastics Industry, had established The Plastics Hall of Fame.


The release stated the purpose as follows:
"To recognize those living Americans who, through dedication, work and accomplishment have contributed most significantly to the growth and success of the plastics industry."

The release also stated that it was their intention to "honor the real movers of the industry" by inducting them into The Plastics Hall of Fame. Readers were invited to nominate candidates. More than 150 different names were submitted. The final selection was made by a specially appointed nominating committee. That first nominating committee consisted of the following industry leaders:

RONALD J. CLEVERINGA - Michigan Plastics Products, Inc. - President of SPE
ROSS DEAN - Sterling Inc. - Chairman, National Plastics Exhibition Committee
ROBERT D. FORGER - Executive Secretary - SPE Society of Plastics Engineers
IVER J. FREEMAN - Reed Prentice Div., Package Machinery Co. - President of SPI Machinery Division
RALPH L. HARDING - President - SPI Society of the Plastics Industry
ROBERT A. HOFFER - Hoffer Plastics - Chairman SPI
STANFORD H. SHAW - Shaw Plastics Corp. - Treasurer SPI
ALBERT SPAAK - Executive Secretary - PIA - Plastic Institute of America

After careful deliberation, the committee elected the following "living individuals" to be inducted in 1973 as the first members of the Plastics Hall of Fame:

The official induction took place during a gala ceremony in the Grand Ballroom of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago. The keynote speaker was Lee Iacocca who, at the time, was President of Ford Motor Company. The event was tied in with the National Plastics Exposition and Conference being held in Chicago from November 5 to 9, 1973. It received widespread industry acceptance and over 1,000 persons attended the gala ceremony.


Origin of the Concept of The Plastics Hall of Fame

According to Stuart Siegel, then publisher of Modern Plastics magazine, he and Sid Gross, who was Editor-in-Chief, were discussing various ideas to help promote the magazine. Sid Gross hit on the idea of establishing a Hall of Fame to honor living Americans whose efforts helped build the plastics industry. The honorees would be asked to write their personal observations on the importance of the plastics industry, and these comments would be published in the magazine. It was felt that this would focus attention of the industry on their publication as the source of reliable information from the leaders of the plastics industry. It would also provide a much-needed forum to honor those individuals. At their own expense, Modern Plastics promoted the concept and over 1,000 persons attended the first induction ceremony in 1973.


Concept is Expanded to Include Posthumous Induction

In 1974 the concept was expanded to include Posthumous induction into The Hall of Fame in order to honor such great contributors to the plastics industry as John Wesley Hyatt, the founder of the first plastics material, along with such other early pioneers as:


Announcement of the posthumous election were made during ceremonies at the SPE NATEC being held in Detroit in November of 1974. The specially created Hall of Fame award sculpture was presented to the surviving widows of the new inductees or the companies with which they were predominantly associated. In November of 1975 another posthumous induction was held in Louisville, Kentucky at a banquet in conjunction with SPE's Appliance Technical Conference. At this ceremony the following early pioneers of the plastics industry were inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame:


Hall of Fame Award Trophy Designed

Sculptor Gary L. Bowers was commissioned to create a suitable award trophy to be presented to each person at the time of their induction. The award consists of three formed acrylic blades mounted circularly on an acrylic base to symbolize "the outstanding leadership in the ever-changing plastics industry."


Modern Plastics Transfers Responsibility to SPI

In 1976, Modern Plastics promoted its second induction ceremony of LIVING MEMBERS in conjunction with the N.P.E.in Chicago. This event took a great deal of time and effort on the part of the publication personnel to promote. Attendance at the Grand Ballroom of the Conrad Hilton in Chicago dropped to 750.


Following the event in 1976, the responsibility for inducting members into The Plastics Hall of Fame was transferred from Modern Plastics to The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). In 1979 the SPI held its first induction ceremonies, also in conjunction with the NPE in Chicago. It was well attended and was followed by another ceremony during the Chicago NPE in 1982. This second event, in the mind of plastics pioneer Fred Schwab of Group Four Associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan, did not have the desired "ambiance" and respect that those honored persons deserved.


SPI Decides To Transfer Responsibility to Industry Group

Following the 1982 event, the SPI had serious "budgetary" problems and decided to "defer the 1985 ceremony". In effect, the SPI was deciding that this was an activity that would best be handled by another organization. It was then, in 1985, that Fred Schwab contacted Frank Marra, then president of D-M-E Company, to discuss ways and means to re-establish the Hall of Fame to its well-deserved industry status.


Schwab and Marra then contacted original Hall of Famer, Bill Cruse and Hall of Fame founder (now retired) Sid Gross and formed a "coordinating committee" of plastics industry "movers and shakers" including Hall of Famer, Dr. Islyn Thomas, of Thomas International, to take on this task." This newly formed "coordinating committee", raised the necessary funds, promoted the concept and put on a gala, black-tie induction ceremony on October 8, 1986 in conjunction with a joint SPI/SPE Conference in Atlanta. Their purpose was to "prove that it could be done" on a self-sufficient basis and was deserving of a place on the schedule in conjunction with the NPE in Chicago. The 1986 Induction Ceremony Program Booklet listed the following persons as members of the Coordinating Committee:


The Plastics Academy is Formed

Among the five inductees at that ceremony in Atlanta was Jerome H. Heckman, Keller and Heckman. He along with the original "coordinating committee" formalized the group by establishing The Plastics Academy Inc. (a tax exempt organization), which now has the sole responsibility of administering The Plastics Hall of Fame and its related activities. The first officers of the The Plastics Academy were:

Chairman Emeritus: William T. Cruse

Chairman: Dr. Islyn Thomas

President: Dr. Frank S. Marra

Vice President: Fred E. Schwab

Sec'y-Treasurer: Jerome H. Heckman

The Plastics Academy received the endorsement of each of the major industry associations.
The Society of the Plastics Industry

Society of Plastics Engineers

Plastics Pioneers Association

National Plastics Center & Museum

The by-laws of The Plastics Academy provided that the key officers of the above organizations were to have permanent seats on the Academy's board of directors. They included: Jack Keville, Jerome Heckman, Bob Forger, Islyn Thomas, William Cruse, John Kretzschner, Frank Marra, Larry Thomas, G. Palmer Humphrey, and Fred Schwab. This broad industry support and involvement was essential to assure that The Plastics Hall of Fame would continue "in perpetuity" and not be subject to the economic trials of any one organization.


In 1991 the Academy added a "ribbon and Medallion" to be presented to each inductee and provided one for every living member of the Plastics Hall of Fame. They are to be worn when attending induction ceremonies in order for them to be given their appropriate recognition by the attendees.


Academy President Frank Marra presents medallion to Hall-of-Famer Islyn Thomas. In 1993, The Plastics Academy accepted the offer of the National Plastics Center in Leominster, Massachusetts to use their facilities as a "repository for the names, photos and all biographical information" of Hall of Fame Members.


In 1995 The Plastics Academy completed their efforts to "enhance the exhibit area" devoted to The Hall of Fame. This was accomplished by contributions from the following companies, who have benefited from the efforts of members of The Plastics Hall of Fame.

The Conair Group
D-M-E Company
Dow Plastics Co.
Dow Corning Corporation
DuPont Polymers
Eastman Kodak Co.
Foster/Grant Group
The Geon Company
GE Plastics Co.
BF Goodrich Co.
W.L. Gore Associates
H.P.M. Corporation
The Huntsman Group
Owens-Corning Fiberglass
Eastman Chemical Co.

The "motto" of the organization became:
Proud of our Past . . . . . . Secure in our Future

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