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For director-at-large: D. Richard Cobb

September 8, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 35


Credit: Courtesy of D. Richard Cobb
D. Richard Cobb

Rochester Section. (Retired) Eastman Kodak, Rochester, New York.

Honors: ACS Volunteer Service Award, 2017; ACS Fellow, 2017; Northeast Region ACS Volunteer Award, 2006; Special Recognition Award, ACS Division of Chemical Technicians, 2005, 2002; ACS Rochester Section Award, 2005, 2001; ACS Rochester Section, “Salutes to Excellence” Award, 2004.

Professional positions (for past 10 years): Eastman Kodak, senior research associate, 1969–2011; Division Health, Safety and Environmental director, 2000–2011.

Service in ACS national offices: Committee on Committees, 2017–19; Committee on Nominations and Elections, 2011–16, chair, 2015–16; Council Policy Committee (nonvoting), 2014–16, 2008–10; Committee on Membership Affairs, 2008–11, chair, 2008–10, committee associate, 2007; Board of Trustees, Group Insurance Plans, 2008–10, ex officio, 2008–9; Committee on Admissions, 2002–7, consultant, 2008, chair, 2003–05, committee associate, 2000–2001; Committee on Technician Affairs, 1998–2003, chair, 2000–2002, committee associate, 1997; ACS Governance Review Taskforce, 2005; Board Oversight Group on Leadership Development, 2005.

Service in ACS offices: Rochester Section: councilor, 2008–19, 1999–2003; chair, 2007; chair-elect, 2006; secretary, 2005; alternate councilor, 2004, 1998–99; treasurer, 1995–97. Division of Business Development and Management: immediate past chair, 2016; chair, 2015; chair-elect 2014. Division of Chemical Technicians:councilor, 2007–9; chair, 1997; chair-elect, 1996; Membership Committee, chair, 1998. Northeast Regional Board of Directors: chair, 2013–16; vice chair, 2007–12. Northeast Regional Meeting: on–site coordinator, 2020; Organizing Committee, 2012; general chair, 2004.

Member: Member of ACS since 1994; ACS division:Business Development and Management.

Related activities: Facilitator for ACS Leadership course Collaborating across Boundaries.

Cobb’s statement

Why am I running for ACS director-at-large?

I want to make a difference in how we function as a membership society. We live in a new world now, yet we seem to keep trying to solve new problems with answers based on how we have done business for the last 150 years. It is time for a fresh approach and a new direction.

My vision. An expanding, flexible professional society built upon and established for the individual needs of its members.

My mission.To replace a bureaucracy, built upon a 150-year foundation of “one-size glove fits all,” with a responsive and flexible membership society meeting the individual needs of its members, its local sections, its divisions, and its international chapters.

My history: I have served in the following leadership roles within the ACS:

Local section—every leadership role


Regional meetings—chair and other roles on organizing committees for three regional meetings

Regional board—chair

National committees—chair of three national committees

From my own experience, I have witnessed many of the problems and roadblocks we run into trying to serve our fellow members. This is frustrating, and often all we want is someone to help show the way. However, there are also times when we are begging for the bureaucracy to just get out of our way. When I became involved in ACS, it was at a time when people with my professional background were not allowed to be full members of the society. Technicians were seen more as helping hands than chemists. Move forward to my second leadership role as chair of the Committee on Membership Affairs when we acquired council approval of the bylaw change that allowed full membership for both technicians and students. I do not consider adversity as an enemy. I consider it a character builder. I do not worry about roadblocks—I seek solutions.

My theme:
Give me a need . . .
Give me a problem . . .
Give me a challenge . . .
Give me a chance!

My record. I am willing to try new approaches and have taken daring steps to make the changes needed to reshape my local section, my division, my committees, and ACS, as a whole—solutions that are applicable to today’s world and today’s member needs. I seek common-sense approaches to uncommon problems, and I come from a strong conviction that the best solutions are built from the bottom up, not dictated from the top down.

My idea of key problems facing the ACS

Declining membership, much of that from industry.

Increasing international membership, yet we are unsure how to handle it.

Living in a time when loyalty to membership is of the past. It may be ACS—it may be a church. Once one finds little value in response to their needs, they move on.

My ideas for change

Fast-track a plan for à la carte membership, allowing members to individualize their own membership and value. Imagine an ACS where each member, not governance, creates the membership and its value!

Refocus international efforts around each of the individual international chapters and their needs, rather than using general terms such as “international membership,” “international benefits,” or “international representation on governance.” Each chapter, as each nation, is individual with individual needs. It is time we treated them and respected them as such.

Establish an ACS Industrial Relations Council, to replace (the old) Corporation Associates, made up of key leaders from larger chemical corporations as well as upcoming new small chemical businesses and incubator companies.

Reevaluate the burden we place on our members in the organizing of regional meetings. In my opinion, there is no harder task placed on the shoulder of our volunteers than this— with a terrible financial responsibility. I want to work with N&E and the ACS Office of Meetings to develop more opportunities to help in planning, and offer more services to help lighten that heavy burden off the shoulders of our volunteers.

My principles and my core values, in my opinion, are expressed best in “The Elements of Leadership” document and my keynote address before the 2017 ChemLuminary Awards event. Please visit my website at to view these documents and other aspects of my candidacy.

So why am I running? To offer a new spirit of leadership to ACS, to bridge the gap between governance and membership—and to hopefully have you join me in making 2020 a vision of change for the ACS.

Candidates will not be notified of comments left on this webpage. To contact this candidate directly, email


This story was updated on Sept. 13, 2019. Due to a production error, Richard Cobb's name was spelled incorrectly in the headline of this story.



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Amanda Phipps (October 3, 2019 3:15 AM)
Wow! I am impressed by Richard Cobb's clear communication, dedication to scientific integrity and transparency in his goals. He makes it no secret that he aims to bridge the gap between ACS members and the governance of ACS.

Building a stronger, inclusive community and encouraging collaborative efforts among members, will add to the benefits of membership and the overall involvement with the society.

Richard Cobb (October 13, 2019 3:59 AM)
Thank you for your kind words, Amanda. I do feel very strong about being a champion for the members on the Board of Directors and I do want to focus more on the quality and value of membership more than the simple number of members. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Richard
Michael Mautino (October 13, 2019 10:54 AM)
For many years Richard Cobb has worked hard to ensure the ACS brings value to its members. From leading effective local, regional, and national programs, to streamlining how ACS national committees function. Richard has worked hard every step of the way to keep the ACS committed to providing significant benefits that meet the needs of individual ACS members as well as benefiting the Society as a whole.
Richard Cobb (October 14, 2019 2:48 PM)
Thank you for taking the time to submit this opinion, Michael. You hit the nail on the head when you talk about "individual members". We tend to try to take care of "individual" needs with "one size glove fits all" solutions - and it does not work. I also firmly believe that it is not only important to keep members in the loop as to what decisions are being made, but bringing the members into the loop when making those decisions - because I believe many of the best proposals lie in the minds of the members - not only in the power of the governance.
Todd Pagano (October 15, 2019 6:02 PM)
I have worked with Richard Cobb for many years on many different ACS-related projects and agree with everything that has been said in the above thread. He is great at keeping paths of communications open (on all levels). For example, within the Rochester section, he publishes a “Council Corner” to keep everyone in the section informed about what is happening within the ACS. It would be great to see this kind of communication at the Director level.
D. Richard Cobb (October 16, 2019 11:30 PM)
Todd, thank you for taking the time to submit this comment. Indeed, I feel that solid two-way communications is the foundation to good governance. I am a strong believer that we were given one mouth and two ears for a reason - so that we can hear twice as much as we say. If I should be given the honor to serve on the Board of Directors, I would like to institute a quarterly article, which would be made available to all Local Section and Division newsletter editors. Like my "Council Corner" articles, it would be a way of keeping our members abreast of what is being discussed and decided by the Board of Directors, and seeking their input on those decisions. I would also like to institute a pro-active format for having sit-down discussion and listening sessions with members at the Regional Meetings.

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