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Dick barker on research and reaching out.

With a background in industry research and a fervor for public outreach, Richard G. Barker has combined two of the pulp and paper industry's most critical needs into one mission: make a better industry, then tell everyone about it.

Barker is retired director of research and development for Union Camp Corp. in Princeton, New Jersey, a former TAPPI President, and this year's recipient of the TAPPI Herman L. Joachim Distinguished Service Award (HLJDSA), the highest honor the Association can bestow upon an individual for exemplary leadership that has significantly contributed to the advancement of the Association. He will accept the award at TAPPI's 2004 Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony on May 4, 2004, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in conjunction with TAPPI Paper Summit.

TAPPI established the HLJDSA to recognize an individual for voluntary leadership and service that have significantly contributed to the advancement of the Association. The recipient receives a cash award, an honorary life membership in the Association, and is also automatically designated a TAPPI Fellow.

Barker has chaired a host of committees within TAPPI and other industry organizations that have focused on supporting paper industry research; he also holds several of his own U.S. patents, primarily related to polysulfide pulping. He has been instrumental in a range of educational outreach programs that have taken him everywhere from local grade school classrooms to Disney World. With sharp leadership and infectious enthusiasm, he has served the pulp and paper industry as both "scientist" and "educator." Solutions! magazine spoke with Barker on industry research, his TAPPI involvement, and spreading the word about the paper industry.


Barker earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 1958, and his master's and Ph.D. from the Institute of Paper Chemistry (now the Institute of Paper Science and Technology), which was then located in Appleton, Wisconsin. Summer posts during graduate school in 1958 and '59 pointed him toward research.


"Both of my summer employments were on bleaching projects--one at Kimberly-Clark in Neenah, at their research lab; the other one at Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company in Port Edwards, Wisconsin," he recalled. "When I completed my PhD work, I had several job offers. One of them was with Union Camp, to be in their pulping group. This was a new research division, with a brand new research lab under construction in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, and it sounded pretty good to me." The chance to work in that new facility prompted Barker to accept Union Camp's offer and begin his 36-year career with the company.

His first assignment, Barker said, was stated simply: increase the yield of the kraft pulping process. "My major approach involved polysulfides, which can increase the cellulose-hemicellulose yield in kraft pulping. But my approaches were in the area that would not add extra sulfur to the process, which was different. I ended up with a half-dozen patents in this field."

As Barker moved up the ladder of research management, he moved out of active research. "Finally I was corporate research director, directing the research of others. Union Camp implemented many major projects over the years, most of which were never publicized because they were proprietary," he said. "One major project was in oxygen bleaching, which we implemented at our white paper mills; another that is very well known is what we called the C-Free bleaching process."


In 1993, Union Camp received the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the first commercial technology in the area of high-consistency ozone bleaching, eliminating the use of chlorine. This award is presented annually by the Research and Development Council of New Jersey.

Union Camp's Princeton research facility--including a 140,000 square-foot laboratory on a 50-acre site--is gone now, sold after International Paper's 1999 purchase of Union Camp. The situation illustrates how the focus of pulp and paper industry research has changed, Barker said.


"The biggest changes in pulp and paper research are largely a result of mergers and acquisitions in the industry over the years, which resulted in research organizations being eliminated. When IP bought Union Camp, I had 190 people at the Technology Center in Princeton. There isn't even a laboratory there any more; it was demolished. Most of those people were out looking for jobs. Some went with IP, but most went elsewhere.

"It wasn't just us," he continued. "IP later bought Champion; now that's gone. Scott Paper once had a big research lab near Philadelphia; Crown Zellerbach, St. Regis Paper ... all had research organizations that have disappeared. The acquirer often did not increase their research efforts; if anything, the good ones held them even. A lot of the research stopped. Today, there is far less process research done by the paper companies. There is more dependence on suppliers, research institutes, academics."


According to Barker, the current situation points the way toward the future of pulp and paper industry research. "There has got to be more cooperative research, and it really has started in the last several years," he said. "We did the Research Needs Conference with TAPPI, and the Research Challenges Conferences, and joint work with the chief technology officers of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) on their Agenda 2020 Program, which led to the AF&PA-TAPPI Technology Summits. As an industry, we need to get the word out about what our real needs are, which could lead to possible future implementations. Then we need to be ready to implement the technology when the technology is ready to be implemented."

In addition to his efforts within TAPPI, Barker has made significant contributions to pulp and paper industry research through his involvement with the Empire State Paper Research Association and as past chairman of both the Research Advisory Committee and Alumni Association of the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. He was a member of the Chief Technology Officers' Working Group for the AF&PA's Agenda 2020, and was president of the Pulp and Paper Foundation of Miami University. All have given him insight into the power of cooperation between paper companies, suppliers, academia, and government when it comes to supporting the cause of research.

He points to TAPPI's Research Needs and Research Challenges Conferences as examples of successful research cooperation. The program brought together university professors and paper industry technical experts to discuss the industry's long-term research needs. The committee then funded seed grants to the schools for the research. "Our hope was to draw researchers toward the industry with grants that would serve as springboards for getting other grants from other organizations. More than half were successful in doing that. A number of their graduate students that worked on that ended up going into the industry, and those were from non-traditional paper schools," said Barker.

"Another thing we'll see in the future--and it is starting to happen now, I believe--is more emphasis on new product research. We need to explore products that are cellulose based, or maybe cellulose in combination with other materials."


An active member of TAPPI's Research and Development Division, Barker has also served as chairman of the Research Management Committee and the ad hoc Research Mission Committee, and has been vice chairman of the division's Alkaline Pulping Committee. He was named a TAPPI Fellow in 1984 and was awarded the Research & Development Division's 1990 Leadership and Service Award.

As TAPPI President (1999-2001), Barker is credited with providing a "new direction" for the association. "We had to increase value to the membership, develop products that were more in line with member needs, and digitize the TAPPI database," he said. "Members were finding it more difficult to justify travel, which led to the development of the Virtual Seminars and the multi-conferences--joining with other groups like PIMA and Paprican. We felt we had to simplify the structure of the organization, to make it easier to participate and contribute. We polled TAPPI Committees on what they felt was the most important area to focus on, and they said public outreach. So we have done a lot in that area," he added.


Barker was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the paper industry's most visible public outreach program ever: the Forests for our Future exhibit in Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida, USA, which opened October 1, 1999. Millions of visitors have viewed the interactive, walk-through display, which enjoyed an extended run.

Barker also led outreach initiatives on a smaller scale from his research post at the Princeton labs. "I called meetings at our lab with representatives from other area labs, representing other industries in central New Jersey, to discuss reaching out to local classrooms," he said. "We also invited teachers into the labs to do demonstrations and talk about how paper is made. Then we sent research scientists out to the schools for demonstrations."

His active career has reaped many personal and professional rewards, Barker said, including the chance for world travel and for making professional contacts that became personal friends.

"I took early retirement in January '99 and became president of TAPPI in February '99," Barker noted. "That meant that I could give more back to TAPPI--and to the industry--because I was able to spend a great deal of my time on TAPPI. My wife was able to travel with me often when I was TAPPI president and vice president, and she had the chance to meet some of the people I had met, some in other lands.


"It's been very rewarding to help focus research in the universities, research institutes, and government labs onto areas that we felt were important to the paper industry," he said. "Also, at the top of my list would be the research implementation--many proprietary and never revealed publicly. I've enjoyed seeing new graduates and new employees grow in their contributions and their careers, and seeing the faces on the children and their parents as they visited the most important public outreach program our industry has ever had--Forests For Our Future. It's been good to feel I've made an impact."


* Background on recipient of this year's Herman L. Joachim Distinguished Service Award.

* Insights into the future of industry research.


* To learn more about the Forests For Our Future exhibit, visit

* To learn more about TAPPI Awards and scholarships, go to



Janice Bottiglieri, senior editor of Solutions! and editor of TAPPI JOURNAL Contact her at
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Title Annotation:Interview
Author:Bottiglieri, Janice
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:May 1, 2004
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