Standardization News

Thank You: Some Final Thoughts Before Retirement

James A. Thomas

I started writing Plain Talk in February of 1999 and have covered many exciting and complex topics over the years. But as I prepare to retire at the end of January next year, this is my most difficult subject to date — my farewell.

ASTM has changed in many ways during my 45 years here, but one thing has remained constant — the loyalty and commitment of our members and the dedication and professionalism of the ASTM staff.

In the early years of my career, I was given the chance to grow and develop my skill set with support and mentoring from a great ASTM senior management team that included Bill Cavanaugh, Hank Stremba, Barney Corrigan, and Ollie Atkinson, to name only a few. They shared the philosophy and culture of this great organization in a way that influenced my thinking over my entire career. I watched Bill Cavanaugh energize the staff and encourage the membership to embrace a philosophy that helped position ASTM as a true leader in the global standards community.

In 1976, my education by the ASTM membership began. I was promoted to the position of staff manager and had the pleasure of working with a cross section of ASTM committees and an extremely talented and thoughtful group of committee leaders. It has been clear to me since the beginning that the ASTM technical committee is the lifeblood of the organization and they deserve our best effort at all times. My direct interaction with ASTM members has continued to this day, and I appreciate the support and friendship of so many of you over the years.

As president, I have worked closely with the ASTM board of directors and have been fortunate to support 25 board chairmen. Every one of them has brought dedication, thoughtfulness, and a passion for ASTM to the position. I have learned from each of them and thank them all for the contributions they have made to advance our global strategy and support the efforts of our members. ASTM’s success is rooted in the partnership between our staff and our board and its standing committees. We are one in spirit, and our common vision makes ASTM strong.

Since I became president in 1992, I have been surrounded by a great group of senior staff. I am fortunate to call them not only colleagues, but friends. I learned early on to get out of their way and let them do their jobs, and I have never been disappointed. When a group of people who care get together and work collaboratively there can be only one result — success. This is true not just of senior staff, but the entire family of ASTM employees. ASTM members often comment on the professionalism and friendliness of ASTM staff, and I could not agree more.

I would like to offer special thanks to Maureen Houck, who has been my assistant for over 30 years. On more than one occasion she has helped all of us on the senior staff look good. I am very pleased that the ASTM board selected Katharine Morgan as my replacement. Kathie cares deeply about ASTM and is dedicated to the continued growth and prosperity of the organization. Many of you know Kathie and those that do not will have the chance to know her over the coming years, starting with her column in the January/February issue of SN.

As ASTM has reached out across borders more and more during my tenure, I have met and befriended a great number of leaders in standardization in many regions of the world. I thank you all for the perspectives you have offered me, and the good work you do to enable global commerce and ensure public safety.

My personal life and my work life seemed to have blended together at some point, so my family has been a huge part of my ability to succeed in various positions over a long career. I appreciate the support I received from all my family members who managed things during my years of travel and even forgave me when I missed special events. Every one of you has helped me on this journey, and I look forward to more free time to spend with all of you.

As you can imagine, after 45 years on the staff of an organization like ASTM, many people have touched my life, but trying to name them all would be risky. To the ASTM members, staff, governing leaders, and my many friends in the global standards community, just let me end by saying thanks for the memories.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International

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