Paul Holbrook, former executive director of ACerS, dies at 84 years | The American Ceramic Society

Paul Holbrook, former executive director of ACerS, dies at 84 years

Holbrook lores

While the Society is a membership organization, it employs a staff to handle its operations. The members and staff work closely together, and none more prominently than the president on the membership side and the executive director on the staff side. Together, they set priorities and plot a course for achieving them.

Those who have sat in the executive seat comprise a rarified few—presidents serve a one-year term, whereas the executive director can serve quite a long time. William “Paul” Holbrook served the Society in that capacity for 18 years during 1985–2003.

Sadly, William “Paul” Holbrook died earlier this week at the age of 84.

During Holbrook’s tenure, the Society celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998. This milestone provided an opportunity to highlight the Society’s growth, but more importantly, advances in the field of ceramic and glass science.

The Society began humbly in 1898 with a mission to apply scientific discourse to brick and clay-based product manufacturing. By 1998, engineered ceramic and glass materials were playing critical, enabling roles in most technology-driven areas, including space exploration, electronics, biomedical, aerospace, automotives, defense, and more.  

Advances by the Society and the field were captured in a centennial celebration book published in 1998, The American Ceramic Society: 100 Years.

A number of initiatives begun during Holbrook’s time had long-lasting impact on the business and character of the Society. For example, the Society started building international relationships in the early 1980s. In the late 1980s onward, though, the Society strategically sent delegations to France, Germany, South Korea, England, Australia, Spain, Italy, Japan, and China. Today we are “American in name, global in scope,” with about 40% of our members living or working outside the United States.

Other highlights include the first Pacific Rim conference in 1993 and the launch of ACerS’ first website in 1995. The seed of ACerS highly successful Ceramic Publications Company was planted when ACerS acquired Ceramics Monthly magazine in 1996 and launched Pottery Making Illustrated in 1997.

In 1996, the Society elected Carol Jantzen as its first woman president, another important milestone not just for ACerS and its members, but for professional societies in all traditionally male-dominated fields. Today women comprise close to half of the materials science profession.

Prior to joining the Society, Holbrook was a chemical engineer with Kaiser Aluminum, from which he had retired. He had extensive experience managing all aspects of manufacturing operations. He earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from West Virginia University and had attended Harvard University’s Business School Program of Management Development.

Holbrook died on March 6 in North Carolina, where he lived with his wife Jean. His first wife, Barbara, preceded him in death. Two sons, two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren also survive.

Services were March 9.