This month, I chose Ken Fivizzani to interview. I first met Ken when I worked at Nalco Chemical Company in Naperville. Ken is a patient and kind individual who always brings a special energy to whatever he is involved in. He has one of those laughs that are contagious.  Ken has had a very active role in the Chicago Section as the Chair of Environmental and Safety Committee as well as being Chair of the Section twice. He is that person that you go to when you have a question about the Bylaws or Policy of the Section. Ken also has represented the Section as a councilor and recently ran for Director of District V.

    Ken is a native to Chicago. He was born in Chicago but raised in Evanston. His father was a short-order cook and his mother was a homemaker but worked as a bookkeeper for some of the restaurants where his father was employed. She was also very active in their church and also did bookkeeping for some of the church organizations. Ken is the youngest of four children but not the first to go into science. His older brother is a retired biology professor.

    It is not widely known is that Ken studied for ten and half years to be a Catholic priest. He attended Quigley North, a high school seminary in Chicago and then went on to Loyola, a college seminary followed by Mundelein which is a major seminary. Ken was fascinated with a statement that his brother made that scientist and theologians thought differently about things. His first and only science class during high school was chemistry during his senior year. Ken never had a chemistry set as a child but chose to major in chemistry when he went to college.

    Ken earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in Chicago. His college within Loyola was Niles College, a seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. After graduation, he studied theology at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. Ken worked part-time on his M.S. in chemistry at Loyola while receiving his bachelor’s degree in theology. He met his future wife, Mary, in a chemistry lab at Loyola. He left the seminary and completed his M.S. in inorganic chemistry under Stephen Pavkovic synthesizing copper-amine complexes. Ken earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison under Paul Treichel. His research in inorganic/organometallic chemistry involved the synthesis and characterization of acenaphthene and arylfluorene complexes of chromium and manganese.  Ken interviewed for both academic and industrial positions after receiving his Ph.D.

    Ken’s first job was in Corpus Christi, Texas but the position was eliminated after ten months. His wife, Mary, was in pharmacy school in Madison so Ken moved back and took advantage of the Chemistry Department Placement Office in Madison. He was given an instructor’s position for the academic year. During this time, Ken interviewed with several companies and was hired by Nalco Chemical Company in Naperville. Nalco does industrial water treatment and support for energy services. He started out doing research in boiler water and cooling water technology where he developed corrosion and deposit inhibitors. Ken is the co-inventor of five U.S. patents. In 1990, the OSHA Lab Standard was issued and Ken became Nalco’s Chemical Hygiene Officer which led to his nineteen year career in chemical health and safety. He states that his favorite part of the job was the opportunity to work with all of the Nalco researchers worldwide.  Nalco had facilities in Naperville, IL and Sugar Land, TX as well as labs in Leiden (Netherlands), Singapore, Fawley (Great Britain), Botany (Australia), and Helsinki (Finland). Safety is one area where companies are willing to share best practices and one of Nalco’s research vice presidents signed Ken up in the Industrial Research Institute’s Environmental and Safety Directors Network which met twice a year.

    Ken joined the ACS in 1975 as soon as he knew that chemistry would be his profession. He joined the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS) without having any formal training in safety. He started attending regular meetings and eventually became CHAS chair three times. Ken has presented many papers at ACS meetings and was a columnist for the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety. He was appointed to the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety (CCS) as a member and also became chair. One of his favorite ACS roles was as chair of the Chicago Section and informing outstanding scientists that they were selected to receive the Willard Gibbs Medal.

    Ken and Mary will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in July, a tribute to the good chemistry between them, beginning in that Loyola lab long ago. They enjoy traveling and have visited many places in this country and around the world. In addition to his ACS activities, Ken also teaches adult religious education at their church.

    Ken’s final words of wisdom to us are “Be open to opportunities that may be outside of your comfort zone”.

    Fran Kravitz