Oral-History:Alex Scott

About Alex Scott

Alex Scott

Alexander R. Scott served The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) as its Executive Director from 1973 until 2008. He earned his bachelor's degree at the Virginia Military Institute and his master's degree in Personnel and Counseling Psychology at Rutgers University. In 1970 he joined the staff of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) at its New York City headquarters.

Beginning in the position of Meetings Manager, he moved on to serve as Assistant Executive Director of the Society of Mining Engineers (SME) and then Assistant Executive Director of The Metallurgical Society (TMS) prior to becoming Executive Director of TMS in the fall of 1973. Mr. Scott was also a key organizer of the TMS Foundation. In 2007, the TMS Distinguished Service Award was named in his honor. Mr. Scott remains active in both organizations.

In this interview, Scott discusses the evolution of metallurgy and materials science over the past forty years.

Further Reading

Access additional oral histories from members and award recipients of the AIME Member Societies here: AIME Oral Histories

About the Interview

ALEX SCOTT: An Interview conducted by Paul Burnett in 2015, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2015.

Copyright Statement

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between The Regents of the University of California and March 18, 2015. The manuscript is thereby made available for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. Excerpts up to 1000 words from this interview may be quoted for publication without seeking permission as long as the use is non-commercial and properly cited. Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to The Bancroft Library, Head of Public Services, Mail Code 6000, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000, and should follow instructions available online at http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/collections/cite.html

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Alex Scott “Alex Scott: In Service to TMS, The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, 1970s to 2000s,” conducted by Paul Burnett in 2015, Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2015.

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Interview Audio File

The interview audio file is a recording of the interview in its entirety.

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Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Alex Scott
INTERVIEWER: Paul Burnett
DATE: 2015
PLACE: Berkeley, California

Burnett:

This is Paul Burnett interviewing Alex Scott for the Global Mining and Materials Research Project. We’re here at the TMS meeting in Orlando, Florida, and it’s March 18, 2015. And this is audio file one. So welcome, Mr. Scott. It’s great to see you. We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’ll ask you a little bit about where you’re from, where you were born, where you grew up.

Scott:

Okay, Paul. I was born in New Jersey, Elizabeth, New Jersey. My father was a postal inspector and we had a beach cottage down on the Jersey Shore. They liked the ocean and the beach so much, so my father got transferred down to Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey. And so we moved down there when I was in fourth grade and I was raised at the beach.

Burnett:

Oh, wow.

Scott:

I spent all my summers on the beach running around with no shoes. It was a wonderful experience. So I was there in New Jersey. We actually ended up living in a resort town called Spring Lake, New Jersey, is where I was raised, went through school there, and then went to Manasquan High School and graduated from there and went off to college.

Burnett:

Okay. When you went off to college, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do as a career?

Scott:

Interestingly enough, probably not. I ended up going to Virginia Military Institute, VMI, in Lexington, Virginia. I was all set to go to Rutgers, our state university in New Jersey with some friends. My parents took me down there on spring break to VMI and I looked at it. I didn’t know what I was getting into there. It was a military college, a la like West Point, called the West Point of the South. My mother said, “It’ll make a southern gentleman out of you.” I thought I was pretty cool at the time. In any event I said to them, “If you’ll let me fly,” I had never flown, “If you’ll let me fly here, I’ll go.” And they said, “Deal.” So that’s how I ended up at VMI.

Burnett:

What year was that?

Scott:

Nineteen fifty-nine. I was a history major there, liberal arts major. I had a very good experience there. It’s big on honesty, integrity. The “I” word, integrity, was beaten into us.

Burnett:

Core values.

Scott:

And so I graduated in 1963. The last couple of years that I was there I got interested in psychology and they didn’t have many courses in that. So the psychology professor kind of took me under his wing and he said, “Well, the best thing maybe for you, if you wanted to look at some schools that maybe have personnel and counseling psychology in grad school.” And so I did. And interestingly enough, Rutgers University had that. And after I graduated in ’59 I went to Rutgers and got a master’s in personnel and counseling psychology.

Burnett:

And what was the attraction to psychology for you?

Scott:

For psychology it just dealt with people and what motivated people, what interested people. I just found that interesting for myself, to learn more about how people thought, functioned, and those kinds of things. And I think, honestly, I always was kind of a people person. I’m very comfortable around people, comfortable meeting people. My son-in-law and a couple of close friends say, “I don’t know how you have that ability, Alex. You can speak to somebody on an elevator. You can go up to somebody you had never met and start up a conversation.” But I have no issue with that.

Burnett:

It’s kind of a native skill that ended up serving you well later in life.

Scott:

I’d like to think so.

Burnett:

Yeah, yeah. I’m sure it served you at the time, as well. Did you do a thesis for your master’s?

Scott:

I did have to write a paper but it was more practical. We had to do counseling. I was in counseling situations with students, high school students, as a practicum, I guess I would call it, and did that. And then I completed that in the two years and then I had to, because of VMI ROTC, I was in the military. I always joke seriously about my military career. I wasn’t a square peg in a round hole, because I had a psychology degree of sorts. I was infantry and I spent two years, as I said, one year at Fort Gordon in civil affairs and then, believe it or not, 1966, ’67, I spent a year in Vietnam. But I was assigned to psychological warfare.

Burnett:

Interesting.

Scott:

It was very interesting. I have nothing bad to say and I know a lot of people had a really hard time there. I had an interesting and rewarding experience being able to do what I did. I don’t want to get into a lot of detail about it. We were responsible for writing leaflets, for doing refugee camps for people, and we also did what was called a chieu hoi program. That was to bring Viet Cong and people into an understanding of what democracy was all about. It was like classes. We ran classes for that.

Burnett:

Yeah, yeah. I won’t ask you big details but I am curious about the kind of—did you have to do cultural analysis? If it was psychology did you have to understand universal human processes in order to do the leaflets, for example?

Scott:

Yes. Well, your question sounds more sophisticated than maybe it was but we did have to spend time researching. I’d go out for a week or two at a time with an interpreter and a photographer and live with different tribes, with the Montagnard tribes in particular. And if the military was going to do an activity there of some sort, a military activity, we would then move those people to a refugee site, set them up to live, then they could go back after they were done. So we had to understand what they were about, what their needs were or their language, their customs, and all those kinds of things. We would document that to make their transitions as easy and as good as possible.

Burnett:

Right, right. So there was an important degree of accommodation.

Scott:

Exactly.

Burnett:

Because these were pretty wrenching experiences to be moved.

Scott:

Correct. And they were people, in all candor, that were certainly not very sophisticated in education or lifestyle or anything. They lived in huts that were built up off the ground and their livestock and chickens and pigs lived underneath and they threw their garbage down and that’s what they ate, to some degree. It was a very different world. But beautiful. The Montagnard people in the mountains of Central Vietnam are absolutely beautiful.

Burnett:

And in terms of your team, did you work with other psychologists? Was it mostly psychologists or was it other social scientists like anthropology or sociology?

Scott:

No. It wasn’t quite that sophisticated. There were two other officers that had the same type of degree that I had, that did what I was doing in other parts of the country. I was stationed in Two Core, which is the central third of Vietnam. So that activity was really, as I explained, it wasn’t that sophisticated. I keep using that word sophisticated.

Burnett:

That’s right. But it was eye-opening for someone who hadn’t done a lot of traveling. You had gone to VMI and you got your plane to go there. But this is halfway around the world, completely different culture. And you had a pretty positive experience doing it.

Scott:

Yes.

Burnett:

And so when you return it’s 1967.

Scott:

Correct.

Burnett:

So this is the Summer of Love and all of that and you had this military background. How did you feel returning to the United States and thinking about the next steps in your life?

Scott:

Yeah. That was somewhat interesting, I think, from that standpoint. I was able to do two R&Rs and I got to go to Hong Kong, I got to go to Bangkok for a week at a time while I was in Vietnam. And I remember thinking to myself—and I would get on a plane in Saigon, fly to Hong Kong, walk around the streets there, life was normal and beautiful. I’d fly back into Saigon, you get off the plane, and it sounds dramatic, but somebody could shoot you dead and you’re a military casualty. It’s like those worlds, going from one to the other, as we can today and our military do today. It’s two different worlds. And adjusting to that is difficult.

I did not have a difficult adjustment. When I came back in ’67 it was sort of the era that—I sat down and looked up the Fortune 500 companies and picked a hundred of them and wrote a nice cover letter, did my résumé or whatever it was, and mailed that out and fortunately I got probably five to ten responses. I went on four or five interviews and made a decision of a career choice, which turned out not to be in the field I was interested in. Because the two or three offers I got in personnel work, which is where I kind of ended up, were with American Airlines and Coca-Cola. And both of them wanted me to sit and do union contracts and union negotiation. I was a people person. I just thought, “I’m not going to sit up all night.” And they said, “Oh, you can be up half the night, you know, negotiating a contract and arguing over the fine print.” Well, that, you know, is not me.

And then my next door neighbor, who was an influence on me, a gentleman who had gone to VMI, called me over one evening and said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “Well, I’m looking at this, looking at that.” “Okay.” He said, “I’ve got something. I want you to go see a friend of mine who works for Hilton Hotels in New York City.” And I was in New Jersey and I thought, “Well, if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.” I was gung ho, honestly, at that stage. And so I went on the interview and they made me an offer to be a sales rep with Hilton Hotels in New York City. And that’s where my first job was in late ’67, I think it was in November of 1967. And just selling, working with convention groups and bringing conventions into the Hilton Hotels there.

Burnett:

Okay. So going from, I guess, a vision of individual psychological counseling to large groups of people, large gatherings of people where you have to organize their accommodations and all of that. So how did you adjust to that kind of career? You seem to have thrived in it.

Scott:

Yeah. I think I adjusted rather easily because I really enjoyed that. Because working with people and convention groups and showing the hotel and selling the hotel, in all candor, came relatively easy. I did pretty well at it and really enjoyed that work. And I found it reasonably rewarding and I could see a career path there at the time. And so all that was good.

Burnett:

And did you live in New York? Did you live in Manhattan at the time?

Scott:

Yes. I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan on what I was making. I shouldn’t say how much I made, maybe, but it was pretty meager. But enough. So I had an apartment. I was a huge baseball fan and I got an apartment out by Shea Stadium because I loved the Mets and the National League. And I lived right across the street from Shea Stadium, in an apartment, and I went to almost every home game I could possibly go to for those three or four years that I lived there.

Burnett:

Oh, that’s fantastic. So you worked with convention groups. So it’s organizational skills?

Scott:

Yes.

Burnett:

Organization management. Can you talk about how you then transitioned to entering this group of folks?

Scott:

Sure. It was a little bit strange maybe or a little bit lucky or whatever you might want to call it. As I indicated, I was happy doing what I was doing. And I was a liberal arts major at VMI and the joke was always all the engineering people were in lab all afternoon. We LA, liberal arts majors, we were on the football stadium sunning ourselves in the afternoons. And engineering was foreign to me. Math and science, not my forte in school. And so a gentleman for the Convention and Visitors Bureau in New York City, who I worked with, called me up and said, “AIME,” the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, “is looking for a meetings manager.” And he said, “I’ve recommended you for the job.” And I said, “Who are they? What are they?” And I said, “I don’t know anything about engineering. I wouldn’t be interested in that.” He said to me, “You probably don’t have to know.” He said, “They just need a meetings manager. Their hundredth anniversary is coming up in 1971.” This was 1970 then. And so he said, “Do me a favor. Go on the interview.” And I’ll admit, I went on the interview and the executive director of AIME, Joe Alford at the time, interviewed me. And he had an apartment on Beekman Place in New York City and their offices were at First Avenue and Forty-Seventh Street looking over the UN. And I was impressed. And they made me a very attractive offer eventually and I thought, “Gee, this could be kind of neat. It’s the flip of the coin. I go from selling the convention and the salesman to being the buyer.” And I thought, “I think I could like that side a lot better.” So in the end I decided to join them and, as I just indicated, their hundredth anniversary was a year-and-a-half away and they needed somebody to start planning for that major event, because they were founded in 1871 and this was now 1971.

Burnett:

I imagine you sold your work experience as the seller on the hotel side. You knew what hotels could and could not offer and that maybe was an advantage for you flipping over.

Scott:

Exactly right. I knew how to negotiate a good contract, a good room rate, and knowing the facilities. And you mentioned a word earlier. I have to jump back, VMI, and whatnot. When you’re there in that kind of a military environment, organizational skills are the number one thing. Being on time, getting yourself together, being prepared, and all those kinds of things. But organization. And I like that. I like to be organized. I think that’s what stood me in good stead through my whole career.

Burnett:

And so you joined right out of the gate because you had this, I imagine, a daunting task of preparing for this meeting.

Scott:

Yes.

Burnett:

And getting a little bit up to speed on what this Institution was. Could you, reflecting back, talk a little bit about where AIME was at the time? I imagine they were telling you what this was about and what it was supposed to mean on their hundredth anniversary.

Scott:

Yes. It certainly was a milestone event for the Institute. There’s going to be a lot we’ll talk about maybe about the institute, as I refer to it as AIME, being—in 1971 their annual meeting was a group annual meeting of all of the then three societies, mining, metallurgy, and petroleum, met together in every other year in New York City. It was a big event. Had been since they were founded. They were founded in New York City, so those events were big in comparison to the time. So there was a big technical meeting of all these different disciplines and then probably the major event, it wasn’t even going to be black tie, it was white tie and tails—

Burnett:

Whoa.

Scott:

—dinner at the New York Hilton. We had just over 2,000 people. We filled the ballroom and the balcony. And all the luminaries of the past came out from the different disciplines for the event. I really don’t remember what the attendance was. I’m sure it was maybe three or four thousand people probably at the time. And it was a lot of protocol and falderal and whatever. And it was exciting for me to do but there was a great staff there that knew how to do things. And I liked the protocol and there was a lot of formality in those days. Less and less today, but in those days there was a lot of formality to how you did things and the head table would be marched in to music and et cetera, things like that. So there was a routine to be followed and I could relate to that, coming out of a military kind of a background a little bit, that I found it had a good purpose and should be maintained.

Burnett:

A real culture. It sounds kind of glamorous, too. It’s a hundredth anniversary so I imagine it would have to have an element of that. I imagine another feature of this, too, as AIME is no longer in New York City, and I understand that a lot of the mining, the American mining companies, or the US based mining companies used to be based in New York City. It was really more centralized. Was that the case? That’s why AIME was there?

Scott:

Yes, indeed. I always said in retrospect, looking back, when I joined AIME in 1971, that annual meeting, the hundredth anniversary, was probably the end of an era for AIME. From then on, at board meetings and board decisions were made at the AIME level and then at the member society level to decentralize. That became the key word within the institute. Decentralization. And over the next ten years and less, five to ten years, AIME decentralized into four autonomous separately incorporated member organizations. Or three. Then it became four later. First they were given control of their own budgets, control of their own membership and over all those things. And AIME had the awards and pretty much that was it. So that the societies then, because of the attraction and the need to be in New York, as you’ve indicated, the costs of operating in New York were an issue. The members, for whatever reasons, didn’t want to come to New York for board meetings and things of that nature even. So all of the member societies relocated out of New York in the seventies and the mining society [SME] ended up in Denver. The TMS and Iron and Steel Society [AIST] ended up in Pittsburgh. And Petroleum [SPE] had always had offices in Dallas area. And so it became this decentralization of the institute. The old-time members still related to AIME but the newer members and whatnot all started to become more related to support the individual member societies in the different technological areas that we covered.

Burnett:

Right. So I imagine it wasn’t just a case of the obligation to go to one place, to go to New York or this centralization. Was there a sense that they had separate needs, they had different problems and that they were best served by having their own communities? So the petroleum engineers didn’t feel, or maybe never felt, a common cause with the other folks?

Scott:

Yes. I think technologically there was some linkages but became less so. I think there became a pride in their areas of technology that people had, the members had. So the societies kind of grew apart in that sense. But there also was, and I don’t mind saying it, there were economic issues for each of the organizations that were a factor. And even within the organization I was in, TMS, there were divisions within that that were good and bad. But I would say TMS was maybe a microcosm of the whole institute in the sense that the different societies really were going in different directions. Their leadership wanted to have some independence about that, about their organization. And all that was probably good. I think we all, all four societies today, have grown and grown faster and better being separate.

Burnett:

Right, right. So you were at AIME but you just mentioned this transition to TMS. Can you talk about how that happened?

Scott:

Yes. Well, when we began all these decentralizations of the societies, the AIME headquarters was reduced in size. In fact, initially, the mining society offered me a job to come down and be their meetings manager with the mining group. And I did that for about a year and then the metallurgical society at the time made me an offer to come over to their society and be assistant executive director and meetings manager. And so that was a little better opportunity for me. They were still in New York City where I lived and had been married and was starting a family. So that fit. So I thought, “Well, that was a little better position.” And I joined TMS then. It was around 1973, I think.

Burnett:

And was it called TMS then? Because you mentioned that they’re metallurgists.

Scott:

Yeah, right.

Burnett:

And they had been an organization since ’57. Is that right?

Scott:

Correct. The AIME established the societies in 1957 and it’s kind of a little bit stranger, lack of a better word, cute. I mean, there was a society of mining engineers, there was a society of petroleum engineers, and then there was the metallurgical society and they all had to have three initials. So they named it The Metallurgical Society, so it was TMS, SME, SPE. And it just fit, okay. So that’s how it got the T. And everybody asked me that question for years. “Well, what’s the T stand for?” “It’s the.” And so on. So that’s how it evolved and then I started with them in those capacities. But as I indicated earlier, TMS, at the time, I believe, if I’m remembering correctly, had three or four divisions. Even those divisions were not as compatible as they could have been. And clearly the bigger one was the iron and steel division, which that eventually, I think ’74 or ’75, somewhere in there, I don’t remember the exact year, became its own separate society from TMS. And some of that was because the other divisions of TMS were more academic and more research oriented, still are to this day. And the iron and steel group was much more industrial. And there wasn’t the compatibility in what they met and what they talked about at meetings technologically. And the iron and steel group was very defined, more narrowly defined. And I always like to say that TMS was everything from A to Z, aluminum to zinc, and extremely diversified. And that’s a weakness and a great strength. And I think it’s a weakness in how you run and organize the organization but it’s a strength in good times and bad time when—now, honestly, The Petroleum Society has done extremely well. The Mining Society has had some ups and downs but done well. Iron and Steel Society has done well overall, AIST now, but when there’s a down market in steel they hurt a little bit with revenue and membership, where with TMS if copper was up or some of the extractive industries were down, and then we got involved with some of the new high-tech materials that came into being, it really made a difference that the society could then sustain some of those little ups and downs better than some of the others could. So in the end that’s how the whole four societies kind of evolved into being. And as I said earlier, the move out of New York became more economic-driven and image- driven.

Burnett:

Yeah. And in TMS, was it just a one M? Because they added Ms. Or was it Ms from the beginning?

Scott:

No, it was 1989. Pretty sure that’s it, that we became the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society. Again, that was to accommodate different groups within the organization. That the minerals was to be the more extractive side that related to the mining society and the metals was some of the more functional metal areas, I recall, and the materials side of it was where the society saw potential growth. And materials became, and I’m going to use the expression probably a few times—if I jump ahead, I’m sorry—

Burnett:

That’s okay.

Scott:

—we kind of mirrored, TMS mirrored different things within the profession and within the industry. The materials advent in the name I think kind of mirrored what was happening at universities. Metallurgical engineering departments were becoming materials science and engineering departments. And they kind of led the way. Because we have a high percent of professors and academicians in TMS, they wanted that to be recognized in their professional societies’ name. So it just was obvious. And it wasn’t without some pain and some study, but the name was changed and it’s kind of like people still stumble over it a little bit, but I think it makes sense.

Burnett:

It does.

Scott:

And it stood up well in it being able to grow and evolve the way it has.

Burnett:

And it’s probably no coincidence that it’s 1973 that you’re joining TMS and there’s this recognition of this need for decentralization. This is also a time of crisis in the US and global economy. I imagine that played into it. There’s a bit of a down market in a number of the industries. And that affected the relative fortunes of the societies as they went through the 1970s a little bit.

Scott:

Yes. I would say my recollections are that the seventies were certainly tougher times for the organization. I’ve already said we went through a relocation from New York City to Pittsburgh. We were going through a change in our name. We were going through changes in our whole divisional structure. I should be able to think of a good psychological term for this. Well, we went through a period where we had multiple divisions. Then we decided we want to be this homogenous organization and the divisions were a problem. We got rid of the divisions. We’re just one organization with thirty-five to forty technical committees with no structure, that they related to a division structure, as we had. They were like mini-societies. And then after a few years that didn’t work so well so we said, “Let’s recreate divisions,” which we did then in the early eighties. And so on. So those factors in those years, I would say there were a couple of other things that come to mind.

The industry in America was changing. And TMS, and you probably heard this from the other societies when you get into that. The big major corporations were dissolving and breaking up. So our members, or the people who were joining the society, weren’t coming from the big corporations anymore. Our leadership wasn’t from the big corporations so much anymore. Much more with smaller companies. That was then impacted in the eighties and nineties, jumping a little bit ahead, but late eighties into the nineties, again, a reflection with the universities. The universities and graduate school, particularly in metals and materials, had an influx of foreign students from outside the US almost in a dominating position, and they were becoming members. So our society was evolving and growing into much more of an international organization. And our members were coming into smaller companies, start-up companies, newer companies. And the other companies, the big corporations, they used to have a career plan for their people. Didn’t exist anymore. People had to become more responsible individually for their own career development. And that, I think, was a boon to TMS and a professional society if it responded properly to those needs and what we would be about in trying to assist and help our members through their career evolution and development. And I think TMS has done a pretty good job of that. Always could be better but I think it’s done a pretty good job of that. So the bigger to the smaller companies and the international impact, I know in those time periods that I was there, forty-some percent of our new members we got up to each year came from outside the United States in the late eighties and nineties. And I think today the membership in the society is somewhere close to thirty or thirty-five percent from outside the United States.

Burnett:

I think one other commenter mentioned 42 percent. Is that—

Scott:

Maybe. I wouldn’t know the exact number.

Burnett:

I don’t know. Maybe they checked the statistics just recently. Yeah. It’s a significant membership. You wrote an article, speaking of jumping ahead, in the mid-nineties and you talked about this same process, this same evolution, that by then there was membership from seventy-seven different countries and it was already 33 percent members who were from outside of the United States. And that’s a reflection of globalization, of these industries, as well. So mining and metallurgy is happening in these other places.

Scott:

And I’ll go back. One thing came to mind, if I can. I think also what was happening at the time was a lot of companies were moving off-shore, developing off-shore activities. And at the same time a lot of the other more developed countries, Europe, Asia in particular, were becoming much more competitive with the United States in their research and development. And TMS membership and our leadership, the members, and our boards, recognized that and we developed some specific plans for that. And I think one of the really positive and right things that TMS did, while a number of organizations, American societies, associations, they were, “Ra-ra the US. We’ll evolve but we’ll create mini-societies around the world.” Fine, that’s your decision and you can do it. Good. TMS made a very serious, and I want to use the word more calculated decision. We weren’t going to do that; we were going to build a cooperative relationship with our counterpart societies around the world. And that was kind of unique for me in the job that I had and some of our leaders. And a gentleman we’ll come back to, Keith Brimacombe coming to mind now, he was very enthused and a leader in getting us to become more internationally evolved. So I got to travel with various society presidents and build cooperative relationships, as was evidenced, I think, last night at our dinner we just had here. There were eight or ten, at least, counterpart societies that were in attendance and they come to our meeting and we meet and we decide to do joint conferences and joint activities with them. It’s really been a win-win for both of our societies. And we have now exchanged student individuals that go and lecture with Japan, the Japanese Societies, and a couple of others. So that, I think, is another part of the impacts and the trends that were happening in those times that really were quite impactful on TMS.

Burnett:

With all of the confusion socially and economically and politically in the 1970s, in retrospect that’s what happened. But do you recall a point when it occurred to people that things were changing in the world and that TMS needed to react? Or was it an ongoing process of adaptation?

Scott:

Yeah. I can’t say off the top of my head I could pinpoint. It was a little more evolutionary probably for us. We’re prideful in saying we’re a member run organization, not staff managed, staff run. And the decisions of the members, they make the decisions and the staff implements. I will go back. It was later than that, honestly, but it was sort of maybe done more informally with strategic planning. It was much more informal in those times you’re just referring to. It came later where we really recognized the need for that in how we would guide and direct the future of our organization. It just evolved with everything. I think one of the things that maybe helped us, it’s maybe not quite on point, but because the big corporations were dissolving and things were moving offshore, our membership, and particularly the leadership of the society, got younger and younger. And people like my age, the sixty—and I’m older than that. The sixty-some-year-old CEOs that used to be on our board of directors and the only ones when I first started, weren’t there anymore. And we were getting fifty-year-olds and forty-year-olds. And those individuals, because of that, I think, their world was different in where they worked and where their careers were and where the technology was. So I think that maybe helped TMS in the sense that we were already there and that wasn’t going to come and surprise us five years from now. We were living it through our leadership and through our membership that was having that experience.

Burnett:

There was a generational shift in the 1970s.

Scott:

Exactly. Well put. There definitely was a generational shift and it’s continued to this day in my opinion. When I sit here now and look at our board of directors, and even looking at some of the award recipients last night, I was saying, “Oh.” Now, I know I’m older. They looked really young to me. And they are. And this is, I think, a really good thing.

Burnett:

And you can see the need. When you think of engineering and you think of material science, you think there’s such a demand for it. It’s such a high-growth area in the economy. The layman probably looks at that and thinks, “What a stable job. What a stable career to have.” But what you’re describing is there’s a lot of fluctuation. When there’s a downturn, an economic downturn, there are folks turned out of work. There are barriers to entries for students who want to transition and get their first job. And so there is this mediating and mitigating force, I suppose, that TMS serves in that workforce to respond to the needs as they change almost on a year-by-year basis because of these fluctuations. Now, I guess the other side of that is that TMS suffers and enjoys growth along with that, and so that’s one of the burdens. I don’t want to say the job market is too narrow but it seems to have a really positive influence on ongoing career development even in a time of economic crisis. And that was its ability to sort of adapt to these new challenges. It was really, really important for the society and for the members.

Can you talk a little bit about people? Because you came into the society without knowing too, too much about the work that these folks did. Can you talk about people who helped you and influenced you in your directorship of the TMS?

Scott:

Sure. Yeah. I appreciate your asking that question because I think it’s probably a little trite to say, but certainly you owe a lot to a lot of people in any career, in life in general per se. And, again, I’ll make excuses for myself but I can’t name everybody. But there are a handful or a number of people I think that really had an impact on me and I guess I would say what I tried to do is think of a few people that I really learned something from in my career, that helped me then be a better staff person, executive director for the society.

When I started in 1973, Julius Harwood, who just passed away last year, was at Ford Motor Company for a number of years he was the president of the society. And it was interesting to me. He was big into the art of negotiation. And because he was then at that time period facing all this divisional disputes that we were having in the society, and he needed to focus on that. So I learned how to be a pretty good negotiator with his work. In 1991 Ron Miller became our president. He was with Alcoa. And he was really big into data and he would say to me, “Alex, get the data before we make a decision so we know what we’re doing.” Ninety-five, I think back to Paul Campbell. Paul Campbell, again, happened to be with Alcoa. But Paul was from South Carolina and he had all that southern good-old-boy charm. But he was big on keeping certain issues in front of us. And he’s say “focus on an issue at a time and handle that.” Ninety-seven a gentleman I still remain friends with, Rob Wagoner. I usually pick one word for Rob. It would be decisive. Rob was always one that, he would say “do your research, make your decision, and move on.” Ninety-eight was Euell Cutshall. Euell, again, an Alcoa person. But it was Euell’s job in that year, and this is probably when I mentioned earlier, where we really got into strategic planning. And Euell was one of the instigators of that and he toughed it out in writing a new mission statement. If anybody thinks writing a mission statement is easy, it ain’t. Whatever.

Burnett:

Can we pause for a moment on that. Euell, it’s an interesting name. E-U-E-L-L and Cutshall, C-U-T-S-H-A-L-L. The strategic planning and the mission statement, at the end of the nineties, why was that considered to be an important thing to do for TMS?

Scott:

Yes. It was extremely important, I think, and I think it’s been a real asset to the society to have done that. We had strategic plans of some sort in the past. It’s trite to say. We’d write them and we’d put them in a loose-leaf notebook and we put them on the shelf and nobody ever looked at them, including myself hardly. In one of the years it was Milt Wadsworth, when he started a review system with me as executive director, he wanted me to write out goals for the year that I had to personally accomplish. It sounds like something you should be doing all the time but you know. So honestly that started the germ, if you will, the genesis of having a strategic plan. Because I then developed some certain goals for myself and they really involved the organization. TMS at that time, we had been on our own for a while as a separate society. We were separately incorporated. And we had okay financial years but we realized at that point in time we needed to run the society. And I’m going to say it. We are a not for profit 501(c)(3) but we had to run it like a business. And we had to bring in business approach to things and learning and understanding how to price our products and services and how to market. Marketing. We hired a marketing manager person on staff for the first time, I think, in that period of time. And got a CPA to be our business manager, which we hadn’t had before. Nothing wrong with what we were doing, just wasn’t as sophisticated again as it could be. So the strategic planning, I know, was begun right in that time period and we agonized over it, as most organizations do, but we made it a point that they weren’t going to be just put on a shelf. So we had that so that staff were reviewed based upon progress of the strategic plan and we had it where we reviewed it at board meetings. We had three board meetings a year. We’d give the status report on certain things and we’d set rather specific, which is common practice, goals and see if they weren’t being accomplished or put on the back burner to come back to again. So I would say strategic planning and all the ramifications of how that filters down into an organization became really an important lifeblood of the society and remains so today. And I see it in the journals. They publish announcements on that. They have signage up around the big annual meeting of what the five, I think our five main strategic goals are today. It’s a way of doing business that makes a lot of sense. But you’ve got to keep awareness of it and hold people’s feet to the fire, that they’re focusing on that and they’re not off left or right doing something that’s not contributing to that goal.

Burnett:

Right. And transparency and communication, so that the members are aware this is what we’re doing and constant appraisal of—

Scott:

And another thing that’s really important, and something I learned. The strategic plan does a wonderful thing for a member organization like ours. We get a new president every year. A third of the board is new every year. We have new committee chairs all the time. And if you don’t have an ongoing strategic plan you get people in there who either want to do something not in the plan or don’t know what to do. But here’s the plan. Here’s what you need to focus on. And it creates much more of a continuum and much more of a focus. And I think really helps the volunteer members in acquitting themselves and really making the right contribution to the society.

Burnett:

And just to clarify the structure. It’s run with an endowment, is that right? Does it have an endowment and then there’s revenue from the endowment that is used for the operating budget?

Scott:

No, no, no. We have an operating budget that is built on revenue and expense for the year.

Burnett:

Okay. So that’s different. So I think some other societies have endowments that—

Scott:

Right. We have a reserve fund, or a rainy-day fund. But the endowment, if you will, what I would refer to, is part of the TMS Foundation, which is separate from the society. The money is separate from the society. The society board still controls that, because it’s not a separately incorporated foundation, which is a little unique or not so unique. But no, the society runs on an operating budget now. We’re just past seven million dollars a year of revenue and expense. And the business plan is to have X percent surplus. We don’t call it a profit. X percent surplus per year. And it has been successful in doing that.

Burnett:

And going back over the decades. You talked about sort of down times for the society. Were there lots of fluctuations in memberships? So people would be, I don’t know, out of work or they would drop their membership? Were there significant fluctuations or was it much less?

Scott:

Yeah, no. Honestly, there weren’t significant fluctuations. There would be stagnation, I guess I’ll call it, where we weren’t growing. We didn’t have much growth. I know in my thirty-seven years working for the society, I think there was only one year, and I think I’m accurate in that, where we had an operating loss of more expense than income for the year. I don’t remember the exact year. But it was back probably in the seventies. But it was very slow growth for us. But that was because then we had, in ’75 when the Iron and Steel Society split, we lost close to half of our membership. Went to another society. So we’re like starting over a little bit. There were some events that happened that impacted those things.

Burnett:

When there is, I guess, a long recession there would be very, very slow growth. But things sort of picked up. Did it track along with the health of the economy?

Scott:

Yes, it did. But TMS, I would say, a society like ours, usually lagged some of that by a couple of years. It was like okay. And then maybe it took us a couple of years to get out of it when industry started to come back.

Burnett:

Right, right. So late nineties the strategic plan was in place. And there are other institutions. You mentioned the foundation. I don’t know when you’d like to talk about that or when that starts.

Scott:

Okay. I can finish up with these people if you want me to. Do you mind my doing that?

Burnett:

Yeah, sure. No, of course. Absolutely.

Scott:

As I’ve indicated, with Euell Cutshall in ’98, strategic planning. Then right on the heels of that was ’99 and Wayne Jones. He was one of the individuals that could lace humor into major decisions and always had a quick wit and that kind of a thing. I learned that from him, trying to emulate some of that. But I’m not a witty person, as you maybe observed here. In 2000 we had Austin Chang. And Austin was very interested in international protocol. We were then really in the center of trying to develop cooperative relationships with other societies. And Austin was one of those people that I have great respect for from the standpoint—and a lot of our major leaders did—they reinvented themselves from working in one area of technology and could move to another. Not a lot did that but certainly Austin did. Two thousand two, John Allison. John was a Ford guy at the time. He was always prepared and he had some difficult times with some negotiations that we had to do with other societies.

Burnett:

What was the nature of negotiations with other societies? Roughly speaking. No details.

Scott:

Other domestic societies. With ASM International [American Society for Metals], MRS [Material Research Society] that were, certainly at some level, competing organizations. And we were trying to do cooperative things with them. There were some touchy and difficult negotiations to protect the best interests of our society.

Burnett:

Yeah. Just because, as an outsider, I am curious. There’s the existence of ASM and it’s the Materials Research Society?

Scott:

Correct. MRS.

Burnett:

Yeah. And so why are there these other societies? Do you have an insight on that?

Scott:

Yeah. With MRS, I would, don’t say we, I would maybe define them as being more high-tech and more physicists. They have a high degree of physicist membership in it. And to their credit they had a very unique system of running conferences and how they attracted papers for their conferences. And that was, I’ll say it, better than TMS at the time they started up. I think we’re as good or better than them now but they were that way. With ASM, they were a very old organization that were at more of a lower technical level, for lack of a nicer way of saying it. And they were established, I think, in some of the steel and automotive side of things, if I recollect if correctly.

Burnett:

Oh, so it’s the Association of Steel—

Scott:

No.

Burnett:

No.

Scott:

They had another name prior to that. And so they were very industry oriented. Academic and research was not their thing. And one of the reasons to work with ASM, and I think it’s worked well, we do, the society does, is that we bring a different side of membership and they bring another side. And getting the two to talk together—always was an issue of getting industry to talk to research and academic and there was always that kind of battle.

Burnett:

Yeah. And that seemed to be more urgent and more in the air in the 1990s. I think in the 1996 article that you wrote, you talked about one of the features of the nineties was the collapse of defense R&D and government funding for the kind of—that was the bread and butter for a lot of folks.

Scott:

Indeed.

Burnett:

—in those societies. And so you were identifying the role of TMS as a renewed resource for those members. That they could begin to do more networking, bringing industry in a bit more. Is that a fair characterization?

Scott:

Yes, that would be true. It’s always been a goal for TMS to try and get more industry involved. It’s been a tough battle. But they’re always working at it and should be. And I think it certainly has improved over time. But bridging those two or three worlds is what I think is great about TMS. We can be that bridge between academia, research, and industry.

Burnett:

And so returning to the early 2000s now. I keep stopping you from describing the people. But those people are important, so if you can continue talking about those folks that would be great.

Scott:

Right. In 2003 I had one of the fun people I had to work with, with Dan Toma. I would say about Dan was passion. He had a passion for the technology and he was an optimist. But he had it laced with a little bit of reality of what he could do. But it was pretty good. And ’04, that was probably a unique year, because Tresa Pollock was our first female president, long time in coming. And Tresa was really about the needs of the next generation and certainly student members. But she probably was a great example of how far women in our profession had come and could come. Two thousand six Brajendra Mishra. He had a real passion also. He looked at the important opportunities and really wanted to focus on getting things done for the society. He was the last direct president that I got to work with. So in looking at all of those, some of these individuals here that I’ve just been able to mention, these are the things that I learned from them that helped me really be a better executive director for them.

I want to return a little bit to the women’s side. I never quite understood. We fought that battle. We had a lot of growth in women, females in our student membership. I think materials science, that side of it, is what people like to talk about as a clean technology, laboratory work, research work, academic environment that could be more attractive to females than some of our other engineering groups maybe would be. And we had a lot. But we never quite transitioned that, the percent we had in academia in university level, into becoming members. And there were lots of issues. I don’t need to get into them. But maybe people thought that. They married, they had families, they did other things that interrupted their careers. But I believe that is changing now. I don’t have any data to give you but I think that has settled down somewhat now. But even walking the halls of this meeting, you don’t see the percent of females that you would think you would see today.

Burnett:

There is an ongoing challenge in growing the proportion of women in science and engineering professions. It’s a much studied issue that we won’t be able to resolve in this interview. But suffice it to say that they’re still trying to study the problem and understand the leakage from the pipeline, right? They’re getting more and more students in but keeping women in the engineering profession is a challenge. And getting them to senior ranks, which is why Dr. Pollock’s story is so important, I think.

Scott:

Right. I was just going to comment to you. I think when you get to do the interview with Tresa Pollock you’ll find that’s something you can focus on with her. I would hope and expect she will have some pretty good insight into that for you.

Burnett:

Absolutely. And so that comes to nearing the end of your time. Can you talk about your transition and stepping down? When did that happen?

Scott:

Yeah. I’d like to come back to that. I’m looking at notes that I have here honestly.

Burnett:

Sure, sure.

Scott:

There’s one other area I think that’s been a huge impact probably on all professional societies but certainly TMS and that was the advent of the technological stuff with the Internet, with electronic communication, and those kinds of things. I would say if there was anything besides the advent of computers, and I’ll admit my ignorance of those things. When we first got them in TMS, we looked at that, we looked at the budget, and we thought, “Okay, we’ll put a computer on everybody’s desk.” Wow. And I thought, “Okay, we’ll do that. We’ll spend whatever the money was and we’re done.” And then two years later the people come to me and say, “Well, we have to update these things.” “Update what?” And I didn’t know what we that meant.

But technology, when you stop and think about it today with electronic communication, for an organization like TMS, it’s changed the whole scope of how the organization is done because years back we had a program committee. We had like twenty or twenty-five people on the program committee. They’d come to the TMS headquarters. They’d spend two, three days trying to organize all the papers for this annual meeting. They’d sit around a room and have paper charts up there, listing papers, and putting file cards under them with what papers were going to be in what session. It’s done like that electronically today, everybody working at their own place where they live and work. We don’t have to come to a meeting and we have a whole programming system on the computer now that just does it all and it can manipulate all that stuff. It’s phenomenal, that side of it. The other side is the publication of papers and books electronically. I think TMS, to its credit, has really, because we have—and I always thought that was luck, more than luck. Because our membership is in research and academia, they were aware of the electronic communications and the internet and email before half of the world. And they expected us to have that. And that was, thankfully, a blessing in disguise for the society. So I think that was an important impact in my tenure with the society, near the end of it, that really came to the fore and I think today is just the way it’s done. And so you really need to think about that stuff.

Burnett:

It is astonishing how quick TMS—TMSonline.org went online in ’93, something like that.

Scott:

Probably, yeah.

Burnett:

I think that was in the ’96 article. You wrote about the importance of the internet in 1996, so the society and you were really on top of that as a development.

Scott:

Right. And I don’t mean to sound, but I feel it’s important to say. The other member societies within TMS, and I’ll name them, the mining group and even the steel group, I don’t think petroleum so much, they didn’t see the need for that, the industrial related societies, as early as we did. They do now and they have brought that all up. But at first it was like, “What are you doing and why are you doing that and why are you spending money on that? And how does that work?” that kind of a thing. And I think that was true with what you’re doing, with all the different society/associations in the engineering fields. And I think some of them probably were more in the forefront of that.

Burnett:

With the rise of the Digital Age some people talk about downsides, too. And I think there’s some anxiety at TMS about the new generation or the so-called digital natives. So that the new younger people and their relationship to a face-to-face meeting society. So do you have any reflections on that?

Scott:

Yeah. It’s nice. We can probably bookend our whole interview here. Being more of a people person, I would place high value on the interpersonal relationships and a face-to-face meeting. Just this interview with you, I’ll say it, I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Not sure I was but I have.

Burnett:

Good.

Scott:

Just the pressure of something like this.

Burnett:

Sure, sure.

Scott:

So I think having face-to-face meetings. Every time we do a survey of TMS members, the number one thing that they like about the society is the interpersonal relationships they have, is the networking. And, now, networking honestly can happen via the internet and phone and whatever else. But in my mind there’s nothing like being able to sit down with a colleague over a cup of coffee or whatever it might be and talk about the issues that you have and assist each other in working on the technological problems or whatever the situation is. So I think the personal relationship, I guess I’ll use that word, a personal relationship is important. How that happens maybe is okay, but I think having very regular face-to-face meetings is always going to be important. I think we as human beings have that innate need. I hope we do. And I hope it continues and that the Internet and those things don’t destroy that for future generations. But I’ve done some research recently, not deep research, for our foundation that I’m on now about millennials and how they relate and how they want to be contacted and want to be solicited for donations and what they expect if they give money to an organization. They want to see where it went, they want to see something happen from it, et cetera, , which is a little different. And they don’t want to be contacted with a solicitation letter. An email is fine or something electronic is fine. That they can respond to instantaneously and not put it to pay with their bills at the end of the month kind of thing.

Burnett:

Right, right. Exactly.

Scott:

That’s what, I think, is exciting about the world and about life and about being part of a professional technical society like a TMS. It is always changing but it is people and it’s people first. You’ve got to love the people and you got to be able to have some empathy for them. As staff people for organizations like that, you’ve got to have that. One of the things I always looked for when I was hiring people, I tried to look for somebody who had a service attitude, a service orientation, and were comfortable but wanted to do that. And felt that. You can’t fake it. You got to be able to do that. And so I think in all that sense. I’m winding down here. Winding my career down.

Burnett:

Well, before we do that, there is something related and that is the development of the TMS Foundation. Could you talk about that? We didn’t quite cover that.

Scott:

Yeah, okay. Yes, thank you. I would want to have that opportunity. One of the people I didn’t mention who was a strong influence in my career was Keith Brimacombe. Keith was our president in 1993, I believe. Is that right? I’m not sure. But any event, Keith was unique. And the fact that he was probably the only person yet, and probably may ever be, that was president of TMS and then Iron and Steel Society, now AIST. He had the vision thing. It’s easy to say but hard to define. But he had a vision thing. And he always wanted to move forward with whatever he was involved with doing. And one of the fun things that brings a smile to my face now was he’d say to me, “Alex,” when he was vice president, and president, and past president, he’d say, “Come on, Alex. We’re going to have a little natter.” And I said, “What is a natter?” And I looked it up in a dictionary. I guess it’s a British expression that means have a little conversation, a little discussion, a little whatever. Any event, we were at Banff, Lake Louise in Canada at a meeting, and he says, “Come here, Alex. We’re going to have a little natter. Let’s take a walk around Lake Louise.” Now, this is the atmosphere. It’s like phenomenal. And I’m like, “Okay. What’s Keith going to come up with now?” I had a little bit of that attitude. We’re walking along the lakeside. We walked all the way up to the headwaters of it, I think, and back. You can’t walk quite around it. And he said, “I have an idea for a foundation. I don’t understand why TMS doesn’t have a foundation. I know how foundations work and I know what good they can do. And as a professional society, we have so much we could do and give back to future generations.” And his expression to me at that time, and still works for me today, is “pass the torch.” He says, “As professional people we need to pass the torch to the next generation and the next generation.” So it was his concept to have a foundation for the society. He brought that forward with a lot of background work and how to structure that and those kind of things to the board and that was eventually approved and implemented. We have had our difficulties with it, definitely, for TMS. But I think in the last couple of years Rob Wagoner and Diran Apelian and several other people, Marty Glicksman—I want to name those people because they have been big supporters of it. Jeffrey Wadsworth. Jeffrey Wadsworth with Battelle. They have been really instrumental—and getting the vision thing again, and being able to convey—and that’s the hard thing—convey that vision to other people and get other people to see that, buy into that, and then support it. So I think the foundation, we use the big word revitalized. We’ve been working at that for, oh, almost two years now and it’s showing renewed life and purpose and those good things. I was approached two years ago now. I’ve been retired eight years, excuse me. Just eight this year. To give back. I remembered Keith Brimacombe and I remembered pass the torch and I thought TMS. And I want to say this. TMS was very good to me and my family has benefitted from my being able to have a career with them. I felt I have something I could contribute to the foundation and helping it get reborn and change a little and find a new lease on life in what it does. So that’s what I’ve been about with working with them and why I’m actually here at the meeting today.

Burnett:

Yeah. You have been recognized for your service, have you not? Isn’t there a—

Scott:

Oh, yes. Oh, thank you.

Burnett:

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Scott:

Yeah. Well, it was a surprise. They established, I think it was around, for distinguished members.

Burnett:

Distinguished service award, isn’t it?

Scott:

Yes, correct, thank you. Yeah. The TMS Distinguished Service Award. They renamed it in my name. I was humbled by it, honored by it, and it’s pretty neat because I look forward to seeing whoever gets it every year. And there’s something to be said to see your own name on something that you expect will be there for posterity. And just last night at the awards thing, you hear about awards that were established in 1933 or 1972 or back in the earlier 1900s, you know, and here we are in 2015. To think that that goes on for the people that were involved and the distinguished list. So yes. Thank you for bringing that up. I appreciate that.

Burnett:

It’s a recognition that TMS sees that you have been an important part of the history of the institution over these decades and you continue to be of service. I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down to speak with us.

Scott:

Well, it was a privilege and I really enjoyed it.