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TAPPI honors Sandy Sharp for distinguished service: corrosion expert pioneered Association programs.

When W.B.A. "Sandy" Sharp joined Westvaco us a research engineer in 1978, he also joined TAPPI. At his first meeting, Max Moskal invited him to work on the Corrosion and Materials Engineering Committee. Sandy has been active in TAPPI and industry activities ever since.

Through the years, Sharp helped launch the Process Control, Electrical and Instrumentation Division, served as inaugural chairman of TAPPI's Information Technology Committee, chaired the Technical Operations Council, and led the technical program development for the 1990 TAPPI Engineering Division Conference that had a record attendance of 1426 registrants and 440 exhibitors. He initiated a "Corrosion Notebook" column for Tappi magazine in 1980. In education, he helped establish the first of many TAPPI undergraduate scholarship funds and developed a short course on solving corrosion problems. Sharp served on TAPPI's Board of Directors from 1997 to 1999, on the 2010 Committee, and as a TAPPI Futurists. He currently serves on TAPPI's Operations Committee. For those and his other contributions to the Association, Sharp is the 2002 Herman L. Joachim Distinguished Service Award winner.

"Receiving the DSA is a huge honor," said Sharp, who is senior research associate at MeadWestvaco Corp. "Considerable credit should go to my company which consistently supported my participation. I consider my efforts a privilege to represent other TAPPI members and steer some TAPPI activities. I enjoyed the work, and it provided real value to my company. This recognition that my involvement was also valuable for the Association is the icing on the cake!" he said.

This is not the first award Sharp has received. He earned the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association's Weldon Medal in 1978 for his work on corrosion control in bleaching equipment. He received the TAPPI Engineering Division Award and E.H. Neese (Beloit) Prize in 1985 for his contributions in the field of corrosion and materials engineering. He became a TAPPI Fellow in 1989 and will this year become the first NACB (National Association of Corrosion Engineers) Fellow from the pulp and paper industry. Sharp's "Solving Corrosion Problems in the Pulp and Paper Industry" short course won the American Society of Association Executives' "Best Seminar" award in 1996.

"I have been fortunate to have worked for some encouraging managers who gave me the coaching I needed. Larry Laliberte at Paprican and Joe Marten at Westvaco helped me to believe that I could achieve technical success. Ron Brown (Westvaco) helped me learn how to manage other researchers," he said. "Within TAPPI, Jim Tucker was my mentor. He set me on the path toward leadership in the organization."

Sharp's nine years advancing through the corrosion committee chairs gave him the opportunity "to meet and work with the most capable people in my field," he said. "Listening to their presentations and working with them on technical committees not only made me more knowledgeable but also enabled me to pass on much immediately practical advice to Westvaco mills. When I finished my service on the corrosion committee, Jim Tucker asked me to join the Engineering Division Council. This involved more strategic planning and event planning and gave me opportunities to see good managers in action on the Division Council and later on the Technical Operations Council. This learning continued and grew during my term on the Board of Directors."


Born in his grandfather's house in Scotland at the end of World War II, William Broom Alexander Sharp learned the importance of education and the value of a strong marriage and family from his parents. His father was a career officer in the Royal Navy as were his grandfather and great-grandfather. Trained as a teacher, his mother became a homemaker.

"My dad worked very hard to give me opportunities he had lost when his father was killed in World War I." Both Sharp and his older brother Maurice, went to Cambridge University and followed careers in research.

At Cambridge, when not attending classes or studying, Sharp was either making music with the Folk Song Society or playing badminton with the college team. He met Lorna, his future wife, at an "open mic" folk song meeting. The young optometrist was looking for someone to teach her to play guitar. Their courtship led to marriage in 1967 "in a very English church."

"Lorna has been critically important in all my lifE," Sharp said. "She is my best friend, my mate, and my most trusted advisor. She helps me keep my life in balance."

Cambridge is also where Sharp became interested in corrosion. He had won an undergraduate scholarship from the British power organization for his metallurgy and materials science degree that led to a job doing research on boiler tube corrosion. There he studied part-time for a second masters' degree in corrosion science and corrosion engineering.

After completing those studies at the University of London, Sharp wanted to go one step further and earn a doctorate. "To understand corrosion, you must understand chemistry and materials. I took the plunge and enrolled for a Physical Chemistry degree at the University of Ottawa in Canada," Sharp said.

After earning his Ph.D., Sharp worked with Larry Laliberte in Montreal on Paprican's corrosion group. After three years of research on corrosion mechanisms, he discovered he wanted to do more practical corrosion engineering and moved to the United States in 1978 to work at Westvaco's Research Center just outside Columbia, Maryland. By then, he and Lorna had adopted three children--two from Honduras. They would later adopt two children from Vietnam.


Through his years with Westvaco (now MeadWestvaco), Sharp led a group of corrosion engineers that focused on reducing the cost of process equipment and eliminating safety hazards. He also led research in process control and microbiology. He helped develop systems to protect process control equipment from atmospheric corrosion damage, set up quality assurance programs to support major capital programs, and introduced risk-based inspection and fitness for service methods.

Sharp has published many papers on corrosion control. While on the board of the Materials Technology Institute, he helped develop a roadmap for process equipment materials needs in the chemical industry that gave birth to new U.S. Department of Energy funding similar to that in Agenda 2020.

Outside of work and TAPPI, Sharp's church and Bible study group activities have been a large part of his lilt that he has been able to share with others. "I remember how much Bill Metcalfe encouraged me by speaking about his faith when he received the Engineering Division Award in 1979. His example prompted me to organize prayer breakfasts at subsequent Engineering Conferences to enable Christian engineers to share their experiences and to offer the curious an opportunity to hear what it means to be a Christian," he said. A book he reads most is the Bible. "I heartily recommend it to everyone because it contains good news about issues far more important than our careers."

The Sharps recently bought a small condominium on the Atlantic shore, a drive of a few hours from their home. It is their "bolthole," a place they can relax, watch the waves breaking on the shore, and cook seafood. They continue to enjoy jogging, hiking, singing, and traveling to new places.

For the future, Sharp believes TAPPI's role is and always will be helping paper industry engineers do their jobs better. "Formerly that involved arranging meetings for people to attend. Unfortunately, the technical community has not effectively demonstrated the value of its contributions to the industry," he said. "As a result, many pulp and paper companies believe that they can operate profitably with far smaller technical staffs than in previous years. This makes it more difficult for the remaining TAPPI volunteers to find time to develop the technical content that is the lifeblood of our organization."

Sharp believes face-to-thee meetings still have great value, but he senses a shift to on-line communities. "On-line communities have great potential value within TAPPI," he said, "but I am not sure that we really understand how to 'operate' them yet. I also see a growing role for TAPPI in offering immediate advice from 'Ask the Experts' and in presenting short courses. Our Board of Directors needs all the support we can give as it guides the activities to serve our members with shrinking resources in a shrinking market."


* Hew individual efforts make a difference

* The personal side of Sandy Sharp

* Ways in which TAPPI serves members and the industry


* See page 196 of the December 1992 Tappi Journal for a profile of Sharp when he was chairman of the Engineering Division

* To read MTI "Technology Roadmap" visit: pdf

* For a sampling of Sharp's studies on corrosion, visit: and visit:
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Title Annotation:Interview
Author:Meadows, Donald G.
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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