Joel Moskowitz—the man known for saving the lives of soldiers in combat—lost his battle against cancer on March 15 at age 75.
Moskowitz began his career in ceramics almost accidentally. Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., he enrolled at Alfred University on the advice of a high school counselor who knew about the university’s scholarship opportunities to attract students from the city to study ceramic engineering. Early on, a professor advised the young ceramic engineers to join The American Ceramic Society so that, as the story goes, “your membership cards will date from your student days.” As a result of those two early influences, Moskowitz was a card-carrying member of ACerS since 1958. A highlight for him came when the Society elevated Moskowitz to Distinguished Life Member in 2012—its highest honor.
After graduating in 1961, Moskowitz did a tour in the Army and then headed to California in 1963 to make his way in the world. That move proved auspicious. It was there that he met Ann, his wife of more than 50 years. In 1967, after working for a few years as a research engineer at Interpace Corporation, he and a business partner pulled together $5,000 to start the company that became Ceradyne. The business grew to become an international, publicly traded company employing nearly 3,000 at locations in the United States, Canada, China, and Germany with annual revenues of $500 million. In fall 2012 3M (St. Paul, Minn.) acquired Ceradyne in a deal valued at approximately $860 million. With the sale, Moskowitz retired from his position as CEO of the company he had led for 45 years.
Ceradyne was founded to develop, manufacture, and market advanced structural ceramics for defense, industrial, and consumer applications, and is best known for its boron carbide ceramic armor for soldiers as well as vehicles. “We’re saving American lives,” Moskowitz often remarked in interviews.
In addition to building a successful advanced ceramics business, Moskowitz was a passionate champion for education. He and his wife donated considerable time and financial support to Alfred University. He served as a university trustee for more than 30 years and donated more than $1 million to support various Alfred initiatives aimed at improving the student experience. The university awarded him the Doctor of Science, honoris causa, in 2005.
More recently, Moskowitz was instrumental in launching The Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation, the Society’s philanthropic arm dedicated to education and workforce development. As founding chair of CGIF, he helped define its mission and vision. He was an enthusiastic ambassador, advocate, and supporter for the CGIF before illness interrupted.
“Joel applied his many years of experience as a ceramic engineer and entrepreneur to set the CGIF on a course of action. Now, only two years later, the CGIF is more than a vision—it has a formal structure, fundraising strategy, and we are initiating our Foundation’s programming plan,” says ACerS president Kathleen Richardson. “We were fortunate to benefit from Joel’s passion and enthusiasm towards education and training to help with the launch of CGIF. Now, as CGIF enters its roll-out phase, Joel’s efforts are ensuring that today’s students have access to the educational opportunities he had as a student.”
Beyond his education leadership and philanthropy, Moskowitz served as president of the Temple Bat Yahm congregation in Newport Beach, Calif. He was active in the Jewish Federation of Orange County. Israel awarded him the prestigious Albert Einstein Technology Award in 2004. In addition, Moskowitz was a lifelong student of culture and an avid art collector.
“Joel was a real mensch and a great humanitarian who lived life to its fullest with a true sense of joy and endless curiosity,” adds Charlie Spahr, ACerS executive director.
He is survived by his wife Ann and son David. He will be missed by many.