The 10th chapter of AICHE was organized and chartered in May 1937. The history of the section dates to when Dr. Harlan L. Trumbull of Goodrich called a meeting of Akron's leading chemical engineers. At that time, Dr. Trumbull was Director of Research for B.F. Goodrich. The group discussed the need for a local professional organization to serve the growing technical community. Thus, the Akron local section was chartered with Dr. Trumbull named as chairman, John P Maider as Vice Chairman, and William Burt (Goodrich) as Secretary-Treasurer. Charter members included John Street (Firestone), George Allison (Goodrich), R. P. Dinsmore (Goodyear), Frank Schoenfeld (Goodrich), and Maurice Knight Jr. (The M.A. Knight Company). Charter members of the Akron Section were instrumental in the development of synthetic rubber and related process equipment. They became the technical leaders in the rubber industry through the 1970s.
After World War II, Akron had one of the highest concentrations of chemical engineers in the world. More than 400 chemical engineers lived within a 20-mile radius of the city. In the four decades that followed, the membership consisted mainly of chemical engineers from the main rubber companies in the area, Firestone, General Tire, B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear.
Support for Akron area engineers was prevalent. Maurice Knight of the M.A. Knight Company would sponsor an outdoor picnic event at his home in the 1940s and 50s for all area chemical engineers. In the 1960's, Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) of Barberton began sponsoring a September party at PPG's Lake Dorothy. The picnic would have 70 to 100 members attend each year.
Most chemical engineers were "imported" into the Akron area from universities around the state, country and world. However, this changed when in 1964, the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Akron was founded. Many talented students were now taught chemical engineering in the same city that they were grew up and would continue their professional careers. The section provided assistance to Coleman Major, the first department chair, by providing technical advice and start-up funds for the department's library. Eventually, the University of Akron began playing a larger role in AIChE with several professors and graduates taking officer roles within the local section.
In the mid-1970s, the rubber and tire plants began closing in Akron with the last commercial tire made by General Tire in 1982. Beginning in the 1980's, the main source of members to the local section were from Goodyear Tire and Rubber. This continues today, however, approximately 50% of the section's members are from numerous small to mid-size companies in the area. These companies include Advanced Elastomer Systems, Chemstress Consultants, Gojo Industries, and Norton. The Akron Section is privileged to have many active members who are retired engineers from the rubber industry.
The Akron Section has numerous annual events, which has grown to a traditional standards. These events include joint meetings with the Cleveland Section of AIChE, the Akron Chemical Society (ACS), and Senior chemical engineering students from the University of Akron. The Section sponsors two awards each year during Engineers' Week. The Outstanding Senior at the University of Akron and the Chemical Engineer of the Year Award express the Sections continued support for local Chemical Engineers who are advancing the profession. Finally, to assist local educators emphasis on science, the Section provides outreach information and supports local science fairs with chemical engineering based project awards.
Points and Highlights of Section and Member Achievements
- Polyvinyl chloride formulated at B.F. Goodrich by a team lead by Waldo Semon.
- Section chartered in May 1937.
- Synthetic rubber was formulated and plants in the Akron area were open year round producing synthetic rubber and chemicals for the war effort.
- William Burt is elected Vice-President of the National AIChE in 1951 and succeeds as President in 1952.
- Chemical Engineer/Man of the Year Award for the Akron Section created. E. J. Thomas chosen as the first Man of the Year.
- Oxychlorination process for creating vinyl chloride monomer developed by Goodrich.
- Synthetic natural rubber developed.
- The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Akron founded in 1964.
- Chemstress Consultant Company started in Akron by Robert Handelman in 1965.
- Cuyahoga River Basin Water Quality Committee chaired by Ed Bollinger is formed to reduce pollution on the Cuyahoga River.
- PPG ceases soda ash production in Barberton after seventy years of operation.
- The first female officer, Julie Vaughn, was elected as Treasurer in 1987.
- PPG begins voluntary clean-up of hazardous waste "Lime Lakes" region in Barberton.
- Through the voluntary efforts of local Section members and companies, the Cuyahoga Valley Recreation Area is recognized nationally as a valuable asset to Akron.
- Polymer Science Center completed at the University of Akron.
- Dr. Kathy Fullerton of the University of Akron became the first female chairperson in 1994.
- Walt Ruthenburg of Goodyear co-founded the Akron Science and Technology Fair in 1994.
- PPG opens restored "Lime Lakes" region to public for bird watching and hiking.
- The Akron Section wins the Randall D. Sheeline Award for Excellence in Public Relations in 1997.
- The Akron Section wins the Marx Isaacs Award for Best Newsletter for a Small Section in 1999.