UMass Lowell will resume on-campus instruction, research and campus life for Fall 2020. View the plan for more info.
The Francis Academy of Distinguished Engineers recognizes graduates of the Francis College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell that have achieved a distinguished record of leadership in their chosen profession or life’s work, whether in the academic, corporate, entrepreneurial, non-profit, government or military sector; and performed outstanding service to the college, university or profession. It is expected that the awardee is a person of such integrity, stature, demonstrated ability and renown, that the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the Francis College of Engineering will take pride in, and be inspired by, his or her recognition.
This year, our inductee is Robert (Bob) Davis ’60.
On a chilly Nantasket Beach in 1962, Robert “Bob” Davis lost his Lowell Technological Institute class ring which he had received upon his graduation in 1960. A desperate search of the beach turned up nothing. Upset and angry, Bob left for home.
Thirteen years later Bob received a letter from the University of Lowell. The ring had been found by someone walking on the beach. By matching the information on the ring to members of the Class of 1960, it was determined that it could only be Bob’s ring, and when it was returned to Bob, the miraculous recovery and return of a ring lost so long ago seemed to bond Bob and Lowell forever.
Bob graduated from one of the early Plastics Engineering classes at Lowell Tech in 1960 and served as President of the Plastics Engineering Society. His next 32 years were spent with The DuPont Co, developing and marketing many products however, it was a product that he helped to develop at the DuPont Yerkes plant in Buffalo, New York, during his early years with the company, that would become a building block for the next chapter of his career in plastics.
After retiring from DuPont in 1992, Bob joined Tomark Industries, as President. During the next several years, Bob patented solar backsheet products as well as decorative laminates for the airline industry. The early solar panel manufacturers needed an insulation for the backside of their solar panels to protect them for many years. Bob had developed Tedlar®, in Buffalo, since it was a very durable film. A mono layer of Tedlar®, however, failed due to dielectric issues after only a few years.
Bob and his partner Tom Kloss thought the making of a laminate of Tedlar® and Polyester would work well, and they invented and developed TPT and TPE which became the lead product manufactured by Madico of Woburn, Mass. in partnership with Tomark. As the scale up work on Tedlar® progressed, the business team had to decide whether to build their own plant in Buffalo or continue to make Tedlar® at Gila River.
The debate raged on for about a year and the business team was recommending not to spend the money to build a new plant. At a critical business team meeting, Bob gave his famous "gutless speech". He called out the business team as being gutless, said that DuPont either had to be in the business or not and that they should commit resources if they wanted to stay in the business. At that point, the business manager shamefully agreed with Bob and gave the green light to make the new plant in Buffalo.
In 2007, Tedlar® ran out of capacity again, as Bob had predicted much to the chagrin of Dupont. As a result, Bob was part of the Madico team which invented backsheets with fluoropolymer coatings instead of Tedlar® films. These backsheets were an instant success and enabled Madico to become the #3 player in the world.
Bob’s love for plastics extended to his family. No chance was ever passed up to inspect nylon netting around turkeys at the supermarket, or long dissertations on the proper cut for a paint brush. All grandchildren were required to spell p-o-l-y-e-t-h-y-l-e-n-e by age 5 if not sooner.
As the years passed Bob’s family increasingly included his Lowell family. Whenever business took him near the campus, he brought associates to see his school, pointing out the labs and his fraternity house. With the business successes he had with Tomark, Bob and his wife Arlene began establishing their legacy at UMass Lowell with an endowed scholarship and numerous other contributions to the school.
UMass Lowell has graciously named a conference room after Bob and Arlene, and he loved that the office overlooked a lab. His family envisioned Bob sitting in that room staring down at the work going on and dreaming of new ideas and markets to explore.
Bob’s advice to UMass Lowell plastics engineers is to always promote new ideas and new products. Don’t allow corporate bureaucracy to force you down the safe and easy path. Use your insights and passion to make better products, from drawing board inception to product launch.
Bob passed away just two weeks ago on May 17. He was an intensely private person who never cared for accolades or attention, but his incredible vision, determination and success deserves to be honored and the Davis family is grateful that he will have an enduring presence where his passion for plastics all began – Lowell.
It is our honor to induct Bob into the Francis Academy of Distinguished Engineers.
The Francis College of Engineering has been recognized as exemplar and with a Bronze Award for the inaugural ASEE Diversity Recognition Program.
The ASEE Diversity Recognition Program (ADRP) was created to publicly recognize those engineering and engineering technology colleges that make significant, measurable progress in increasing the diversity, inclusion, and degree attainment outcomes of their programs.
Two times a year, the College of Engineering highlights its research endeavors in its publication Engineering Solutions. Our faculty and students work with foundations and companies to engineer solutions to society's most pressing problems. Read Engineering Solutions.
Dean Sherwood and the Francis College of Engineering recently hosted the fourth Spring Showcase for our Industrial Capstone Senior Design program. Videos for each showcase, as well a descriptions of each capstone project are accessible via the links below.
Annual Industrial Capstone projects provide our engineering students with invaluable real-world experience, as well as corporate partnership opportunities - enabling them to solve real problems in a variety of areas using a multidisciplinary approach.More information can be found on the emptyIndustrial Capstone Senior Design webpage.
Brianna Atwood came to UMass Lowell to study plastics engineering – but she’s done so much more. The honors student started a volunteer program that connects UML students with a local school. She has also participated in the professional co-op program, working on fire-resistant seals for airplanes.
Sofia Savoca chose UMass Lowell for the opportunity to be in the Honors College and to study civil engineering. She’s found a dozen new opportunities since arriving on campus.
Jyotik Savaj, who is enrolled in the Master of Science in Energy Engineering/Solar Program, aims to help fulfill the need for solar power and has a paid co-op job at Exyte, an engineering and project management company specializing in high-tech facilities.
For most of her professional life, Prof. Joey Mead has been interested in plastics.
Senior chemical engineering major Mina Le chose a work-study job at the front desk of the Student Employment Office because she wanted to improve her communication skills. She’s done that and more, being named the university’s Student Employee of the Year.
While he was accepted at several high-caliber engineering programs in the Boston area, Matt is happy that he chose UMass Lowell.