Arthur Fradkin

Mr. Arthur Fradkin gave the following speech at our 50, 60 year member luncheon in November, 2006.

Mr. Arthur Fradkin

My introduction to chemicals began with a beginner’s chemistry set when I was about 10. I learned how to use litmus paper, how to spell phenolphthalein, and how to transfer liquid from a beaker into a test tube without making a mess on the kitchen table. By the end of high school, I was totally committed to a career in chemistry. On that infamous day, December 7th, 1941, I was a senior majoring in chemistry at the University of Chicago, where top secret experiments were going on. I was classified 1A and subject to the draft at any time. Early in 1942, by voluntarily enlisting in the Navy’s V-7 Program, I was allowed to remain in school and get my degree that summer. Whereupon I was ordered to the Naval Academy to study shipboard engineering, become acquainted with Navy rules and regulations, and learn how to be an officer and a gentleman. Upon completion, I joined the Pacific fleet as an engineering officer.

Upon returning to the States in December, 1945, I married my childhood sweetheart and when discharged in 1946, I became a member of the American Chemical Society. From their list of potential employers in the Chicago area, I took a laboratory job with a small chemical company, National Aluminate Corp., soon to become Nalco Chemical Company. Nalco’s main revenue came from supplying various chemical formulations for treating industrial boiler feed water and make-up water for the remaining steam locomotives. I joined a small group comprising a zeolite department which produced a synthetic aluminosilicate used by some water districts for softening hard water supplies prior to delivery, as well as for use in home water softeners. The next few years saw an influx of improved ion exchange media and technology. The more stable, higher capacity styrene-divinylbenzene based resins replaced the zeolites, sulfonated coal, and phenol formaldehyde products. And with the advent of anion exchangers, we were now able to produce the high quality demineralized water needed for nuclear power generation and in the manufacture of various electronic components. Oil producers were using steam for secondary oil recovery and I was issued a patent for softening brackish waters for that process. Nalco entered in to an agreement with Dow Chemical giving them exclusive distributorship of Dowex resins in the U. S. and the small zeolite department became a larger ion exchange division. Gradually my job changed from lab supervisor to one more associated with sales and customer service. So taking advantage of the GI bill, I attended evening classes at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and earned an MBA in marketing. With that, Nalco assigned me to a small sales territory which included everything west of the Mississippi River. The family was moved to the L. A. area and I was given the company car used by my predecessor. This move put me in daily contact with personnel from engineering firms who designed ion exchange systems, many equipment manufacturers who built and assembled systems, and end users such as several water districts, electric utilities, oil refiners and producers, the sugar industry, the plating industry, the electronics industry and many, many people in the home water softener business.

In 1969, Dow and Nalco dissolved their marketing arrangement, and I and several colleagues joined Dow. My day to day routine remained virtually the same except that now my paycheck had the Dow diamond logo and I was issued a new, better company car. In my spare time, besides co-authoring several papers, making presentations before various groups, and attending pertinent conferences and conventions, I served on the D-19 committee of the American Society for Testing Materials, on the technical board of the Water Quality Association, as a director of the Pacific Water Conditioning Association and elected to their Hall of Fame. But the extracurricular activity that gave me the greatest satisfaction was being the manager of the Little League team and watching my son and then my grandson play baseball.

In 1982, I accepted Dow’s offer of early retirement. With much trepidation, I went out on my own as a consultant and part time manufacturer’s rep. I did better than I had anticipated and over the next 20 years gradually reduced my workload to almost full retirement. I still do a little consulting via email, not so much for any monetary gain, but when you’re a few days shy of 85, it’s comforting to know that I still have a working brain and may be helpful in solving someone’s problem. Are there any regrets? Only one. That my partner on this long journey is not here with me today. Shirley passed away in July. Not only was she a loving wife for over 60 years, a devoted mother of two and grandmother of four, she was my motivator, my staunchest supporter, and when deserved, my severest critic. It is in her memory that I would like to share this honor today. Thank you American Chemical Society.

(Extracted from January/February 2007 SCALACS Magazine.)