Last week at the Association of Water Technology Annual Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan, Robert J. Ferguson accepted the 2017 Ray Baum Memorial Water Technologist of the Year Award.
The Ray Baum Memorial Water Technologist of the Year Award, recognizing “outstanding entrepreneurial spirit and contributions to the field of water treatment,” will be awarded at the Annual Reception and Awards Dinner held during the Annual Convention.
The award is named after Ray Baum, one of AWT’s founders. Baum viewed the association as a nurturing support network for small and medium-sized companies, with the goal of providing knowledge and activities to allow these companies to grow and compete in the worldwide marketplace. He was committed to the industry whose growth he helped build throughout his career. The recipient should exemplify these characteristics.
Transcript from Robert J. Ferguson’s acceptance speech:
When I was a young pup i went to work for a gentleman who became mentor, friend and (I hope you don’t mind sharing Peter) father figure, Dr Arthur Freedman
Art taught me to Grok the science of water treatment. Some learn what a Langelier index is and how to use it. Art asked me to figure out a starting point and derive it. He provided useful facts like dissociation constants following a lineaeizable trend versus temperature, but that solubility products were mavericks and not so predictable. He also provided life skills coaching to a 20 something with suggestions like “Don’t drink around the executives.”
Art was a major influence in molding me into what I am today.
Others were great influences in the same time period. Jim Scott provided insight into providing sound tech support in spite of company policies, while Al Bassett showed me the ins and outs of sales and service, including sampling test formulas for Miller Lite in the Miller Milwaukee plant managers office at 10am
Ira kukin and Dr. Bob Bennett created a monster by giving me a lab, staff and free reign to research and develop a new technology for ultra low dose scale inhibition in power generation condenser cooling systems. They even stuck with me when’s 1500 psi test hose burst under tap water pressure in a 2nd floor lab, wiping out the VP of R&Ds office and ruining two gigantic Xerox machines on the 1rst floor below. My new lab was in a private trailer in the parking lot.
Customers also helped. Texas Power and Light let me use their condenser cooling systems as test heat exchangers, dropping dosage until the failure point was found. This resulted in an online real time scale Inhibitor controller and ultra low dosage technology that is still in use today
Paul Puckorius and Jim Smas spent an hour or so Calming me down before my first conference paper presentation. It took that long to get my pulse below 160. “Practical Application of Condenser Performance Monitoring to Water Treatment Decision Making”
Other industry figures had a major influence on me as I continued a career of modeling Scale formation, corrosion, and their control including
Dr Rich Varsanik, Dr Ben Boffardi and a young Dr Jasbir Gill. As I continued growing a career, I wondered, will I become a guru newbies look up to like these recognized experts?
Behind every successful man is a supportive,collaborative wife, and a dog who is a good listener. After 4 houses, 4 companies and 3 kids in 5 years we decided to start our own company. WaterCycle V1 was written in the spare bedroom, and test marketed at AWT in Orlando. Our booth was between Rohm and Haas and Goodrich. After the conference I went into work and resigned. French Creek was born.
John Zibrida and Jack Soost became mentors and strong advocates of our technical approach
after the roll out at AWT. Jack became customer number two, but more importantly for a startup, he was the first to pay. He and John were master beta testers.
Perhaps the most pleasing feedback over the years was from Maxey Brooks and Fred Wilkes at a NACE T3A17 indices committee meeting. On seeing our software for the first time, Maxey looked at Fred and said “Fred, they don’t need us anymore.”
AWT helped disseminate the PChem for Fun and Profit approach. My mission has been to popularize the application of advanced physical chemistry to water treatment by making the concepts accessible to the general population of water chemists, not just those in universities, government research, or billion dollar water treatment service companies
Many researchers contributed to my education. Dr George Nancollas of SUNY who I consider the Langelier of the 70’s. His graduate students had a great impact on improving and refining the technology. Mason Thomson at Rice. Jasbir Gill at Calgon and Nalco, AJ Gerbino at AqSim.
Customers like Brent Chettle, Bob Beck, Bob Cunningham and Les Norman also influenced my approach to water treatment and the industry.
John Zibrida and Bob Cavano provided stellar role models for customer service.
Recently I’ve been working with an up and coming researcher to pass on my 40 + years of experience to the next generation. After all, I’ve probably made most mistakes that you can make at least 4 times in the past 40 some years, and shouldn’t make them a fifth. She’ll be presenting our coauthored paper.
You may have noticed a common thread in my mentors and influencers. Most were AWT. Many stood at this podium to accept the Ray Baum award, or like John Zibrida are excellent candidates for it.
AWT honored the company that Janet and I founded and grew with the supplier of the year award in 2012. Being named the Ray Baum award winner is like family saying you’re doing a great job.
At this point those who know me well should take note: I am speechless with the exception of two words: thank you. Thank you all for this honor.
Perhaps I am at the point of achieving a personal goal formed when I would look at the many mentors I’ve had: perhaps I’ll be like them some day.