OXFORD, Ohio -- Approximately 200 industry professionals, executives, members of academia, future leaders and members of their family, and friends of the program gathered for the 59th Annual Paper Science and Engineering Foundation Meeting and Student Recognition Banquet held on the campus of Miami University last week.
Two papermaking CEOs were on hand -- Mark Kowlzan of Packaging Corporation of America pledged to donate $1 million to the Foundation this year on behalf of PCA, and WestRock's Steve Voorhees delivered the night's keynote address.
"The Foundation is blessed with solid support from our member companies, and also from industry volunteers for the Foundation's committees," said Dr. Gary Rudemiller, Executive Director of the Foundation. "All involved in the day made for a very effective set of meetings for the Board of Trustees and for the various committees, capped off by an inspiring banquet at which the excellent students in the Paper Engineering program were recognized. All stakeholders of the Paper Engineering program at Miami saw how sound the program is, and better understand why there is excitement for the future of the paper industry."
After announcing the $1 million donation to the Miami Foundation, Kowlzan told Paperitalo Publications it is important to invest in future industry leaders.
"It's truly a resource that we have underutilized in terms of schools such as Miami, and are such fabulous institutions that prepare our young men and women to be our future engineers," Kowlzan said. "We can do a lot more to encourage and incentivize and capture the hearts and minds of these kids - but it takes money to do that, and engagement. I'll be engaged and we'll do our part with the money, and encourage our counterparts to participate in the same way."
"At PCA, what has differentiated us has been our manufacturing excellence, at our mills in particular," Kowlzan continued. "We don't have new mills, we have old mills but our mills run better than any mills in the world. Every day, 99 percent uptime efficiency is our goal and in many cases we run 99 percent uptime efficiency day in day out, week in week out, month in month out, that's the difference. If we hadn't changed and we were still running the way we were 20 years ago, we'd be out of business. But it takes engineers to do that, technology specialists to do that. And so I look at Miami, for PCA, as an untapped resource for us. We need to talk to the kids about what a great industry we have for them to participate in. Whether they want to work in a mill or a converting facility or be a supplier, this is a great, great opportunity to build a career. And shame on us if we don't convey that and properly support it."
During the keynote address, Voorhees echoed the importance of schools like Miami University that prepare engineers for careers in the pulp and paper industry.
"This is a just a fantastic program and it's made a big difference in the industry," said Voorhees, who told the students in attendance, "You'll make a big difference to the industry over time, I think you've made a great choice by going into the paper industry and I'll cheer you on whatever you do or wherever you go to work."
The Paper Science & Engineering Foundation at Miami University was founded in 1960 through the donations of several local paper mills and corporations who wanted to ensure the education of future paper engineers.
The foundation continues to actively work with students in the paper science and engineering program at Miami University. The program boasts 100% placement for graduates, with some of the highest starting salaries across campus. Currently, 90 Miami students have a Paper Engineering minor, and more than $270,000 in scholarships have been awarded through the foundation to 58 students for the 2018-2019 academic year.