Monday, January 5, 2009

Joy of having mentors

Back in September one of my mentors, Frank Borik died at age 85. I met Frank in 1977 when I started working at the Ann Arbor research laboratory of the Climax Molybdenum Company. Frank was a little guy with a bow tie, a mustache, and a grin that was a walking definition for the phrase “joie de vivre.” He worked on a wide variety of steels for various applications including ship plate, pipelines, springs, and bearings. Frank was a versatile guy with strong, well-researched opinions on many topics.

Some people metaphorically soar like eagles - Frank literally did so. He was a sailplane (glider) pilot. In 1974 he earned a Silver badge from the Soaring Society of America. Achieving that badge meant that after being towed aloft he had: stayed airborne for five hours, gained 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of altitude, and covered a horizontal distance of 50 km (31 miles). He helped found the Sandhill Soaring Club, and was both their president and an instructor pilot.

Frank was born in Czechoslovakia in 1923. He came to the US after the Communist takeover, and went through MIT on a scholarship. After completing his BS degree in 1953, he moved to the Detroit area and worked for ten years in the auto industry at Chrysler and Ford. Then he moved to the Climax Molybdenum Company lab, where he stayed for 22 years. He earned both his MS (Wayne State University, 1965) and PhD (University of Michigan, 1975) degrees while working full time.

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