Issue Date: January 24, 2011
Charles Lathrop Parsons Award
Michael E. Strem founded Strem Chemicals in 1964, right after completing his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. He started attending American Chemical Society meetings to help his business but soon became involved in serving both the society and the larger chemistry community—service that continues to this day.
Owing to his company’s focus on inorganic chemicals, Strem’s first ACS affiliation was with the Division of Inorganic Chemistry. He joined the Small Chemical Businesses Division when it was formed in 1978, becoming chairman of the division and subsequently a councilor. He was later chair and trustee of the Northeastern Section and even ran for president of ACS in 2003.
Doris I. Lewis, a chemistry professor at Boston’s Suffolk University, got to know Strem in 2000 when she was elected chair of the Northeastern Section. She recalls his generosity with advice on how to plan an effective chairmanship. “I know I’m not the only one to have benefited from Mike’s quiet, unassuming, and yet immensely effective mentoring,” she says.
One of Strem’s suggestions to Lewis—to increase the section’s support of high school chemistry teachers—reflects his passion for outreach to the education world. In 1990, Strem cofounded the Newburyport Education/Business Foundation, set up to build ties between business and the education community in Strem Chemicals’ headquarters town of Newburyport, Mass.
Among the foundation’s efforts is its Partnership Grant Program, which awards educational grants to teams of an educator and a local business that come up with ways to expose middle and high school students to the world of work. Both Strem and his 60-person company continue to support the program. In fact, Strem was cochair for the most recent round of partnership grants.
Another of Strem’s public service achievements is launching a collaboration between young chemists from the U.S. and Germany. Strem traces the idea back to 1997 when he was asked to host Kurt Begitt, head of educational and international affairs for the German Chemical Society at the time, during an ACS meeting. The two struck up a friendship, and Begitt suggested Strem Chemicals might want to exhibit at a German Chemical Society event.
Strem took Begitt’s suggestion to heart, and while Strem was at such a meeting in 2000 he encountered a young chemists group that reminded him of a similar group in the Northeastern Section. Strem arranged an exchange the following year, and young German and U.S. chemists have been attending each other’s conferences ever since. In fact, some of the German chemists visited Strem Chemicals’ facility last year while they were in Boston for the ACS annual meeting.
Strem is 74 years old, but he shows no signs of slowing down on either the business or service fronts. His company will soon open a new warehouse to accommodate continued growth. Strem stays active with the Newburyport Education/Business Foundation, and he is thinking about ways to expand the young chemists exchange beyond Germany and the Northeastern Section.
“I plan to keep going,” he says. “I like what I do.”
Strem will present the award address before the ACS Divisions of Inorganic Chemistry and of Small Chemical Businesses.
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