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Frank R. Nissel

  • Born: July 2, 1926, Berlin, Germany
  • Died: August 28, 2014, Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0244
Interview Date: March 20, 2002
Location: Welex Corporation, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 31
Sponsor: Plastics Pioneers Association
Plastics Pioneers Association

  Abstract of Interview

Frank R. Nissel begins the interview by describing his early childhood and schooling in Berlin, Germany, and subsequent move to Egypt due to the emergence of Adolf Hitler's policies. Arriving in Egypt at the age of seven, Nissel continued his multi-lingual education. After a six-month escape to Jerusalem until the end of World War II, Nissel returned to Egypt to attend the American University at Cairo. He continued his education in the United States, studying chemical engineering at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He began a successful decade of work with Union Carbide Corporation after earning his M.S. in 1946, finally leaving to become co-founder of Prodex Corporation with Albert Kaufman. At Union Carbide, Nissel focused on vinyl calendaring, but returned to his more mechanical instincts by building extruders in his new business venture. The machinery built at Prodex revolutionized plastics machinery by being more efficient, yet less expensive, than its competitors, making waves with companies like Dow Chemical Company. Nissel continued to improve his products, while ensuring customers a good value. In 1955, Prodex was sold to Koehring Company, and after a brief time of consulting, Nissel joined forces with Welding Engineers Company to form Welex Corporation. At 76 years old, Nissel is not ready to retire, but has confidence that when that time comes, the company he founded will be well taken care of. For his innovation and contributions to the plastics industry Nissel has earned many honors and awards, including membership in the Plastics Hall of Fame. Nissel concludes the interview by sharing a bit about his family today, as well as interests outside of the work sphere, especially the jazz music scene.

  Education

1945 B.S. American University, Cairo, Egypt
1946 M.S., Chemical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

  Professional Experience

Union Carbide Corporation

1946 - 1956 Engineer

Prodex Corporation

1956 - 1966 Cofounder and Vice President

Welex Corporation

1967 Cofounder, President, and CEO

  Honors

1992 SPE Extrusion Division Distinguished Service Award
1993 Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers
1995 SPE International Award in Business Management
2000 Plastics Hall of Fame Inductee

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Family Background 1

Early childhood in Berlin, Germany. Moving to Egypt in light of Hitler's governance. Growing up with the influence of World War II. Schooling experiences in Egypt. Attending the American University at Cairo.

Moving to America and Early Career Success 4

Masters program and radio show at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Post-graduate career choices. Successful years at Union Carbide Corporation. Foucs on vinyl calendaring.

Entrepreneurial Initiatives 10

Leaving Union Carbide to start Prodex Corporation. The natural switch from chemical to mechanical engineering. Changing the plastics machinery industry with respect to efficiency and cost. Marketing of Machines. Offending Dow Chemical Company.

Business Strategy and Decisions 16

Philosophy of Business. Thoughts on selling Prodex to Koehring Company. Down time and consulting. Interactions with Welding Engeering and founding of Welex Corporation. Discussion of the future of Welex. Awards and honors received, especially Plastics Hall of Fame.

Current Interests and Family Life 22

Involvement and interest in music, especially jazz. Early experiences with music in his family. Other interests in skiing and sailing. Discussion of wife, children, and grandchildren. Thoughts on travel.

Index 28

  About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

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