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December 12, 2005


K. Michael Shea

Aug. 2, 1961–Sept. 24, 2005

Who hasn't planted a peach pit at some time in their life, just hoping that somehow a seedling would grow? And then, as we move on to other adventures, we forget about it, and if it sprouts—well, we often don't even know.

As a technician, I remember how exciting it was when we, as a group, moved from the National Conference of Chemical Technician Affiliates to a full division within ACS. Those early years were marked with an air of innovation and excitement that caught the attention of many within the society.

As we progressed, we became the largest group attending the Division Officers Caucus. It was there that we met Michael Shea for the first time. I guess it was "chemistry," because Michael and the technician community "bonded," and we were happy to take advantage of this newfound friendship to seek out guidance and support from within the society because it was so new to us.

And Michael, as would be his style, took us under his wing. From that day forward, with his usual kindness, humor, and hard work, Michael was there to answer our questions, calm our concerns, "grease the ACS skids" (so to speak), and guide us on the best path forward to expand our professionalism and influence within the society.

When it became evident that the Division of Chemical Technicians (TECH) needed to put together a strategic plan, Michael came forward and was able to secure ACS funds to help organize the weekend retreat where we were able to build that plan in 2000. It was one of the first at this level of governance within the society. Michael also arranged follow-up sessions to ensure that we stayed on track with our plan and that we stayed focused on a future path, which was lined with innovation and excitement.

At almost every national meeting, Michael was able to take a few hours out of his busy schedule to meet with us, to see how we were doing, and to see how he could help. He was truly a mentor to technicians. And regardless of where he moved within the staff of ACS, he stayed in touch and continued to help and guide us.

That is why the division honored him as the recipient of its Special Recognition Award in 2000 with the inscription: "This award honors Michael Shea, staff liaison, for all the work that he has done on behalf of TECH. His continuous support went above and beyond the scope of his duties. His efforts and expertise were especially helpful in the planning and execution of the TECH Strategic Planning meeting held this past spring."

Right up to when he could not attend the national meeting in Washington, D.C., this past fall, Michael was always there for us technicians. Ironically, at that meeting, a few of us had planned to finally take Michael out for dinner to say thanks for the many things he had done through the years, many of which he probably didn't even remember. He certainly never kept track of his good deeds.

You see, for some time, Michael Shea was planting peach pits. He planted ideas and dreams without realizing that he was doing so. He noticed somebody who needed attention, and he planted a positive feeling in him or her. It was part of his nature. He may never have known the full effect of the kind and encouraging things that he did as he moved on to other adventures, but because of him, "peach pits" are growing like crazy everywhere and technicians are blooming. I know, because I am one. Our best to you Michael Shea—that is what you gave, and that's what will last!

This tribute was written by several technicians whose lives were touched by Shea. At their request, C&EN is publishing it without a byline.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society