(From the June 27, 2011, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—It's always sad when one of the good ones passes away. Good ones like Richard J. Killian, longtime staff member of the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers, and managing director of the organization during the last two years of his tenure there.
I always liked Dick Killian—who died May 26 at the age of 72 after a long illness—and I imagine most people who knew him did, too. To me he was a very straightforward guy, a gentleman, smart and affable.
For years he was a key man behind the scenes at the IISRP. He had an excellent resume for the job: He'd spent 20 years with Gulf Oil and later spent time at Sun Oil, holding numerous posts in mostly overseas locations.
The IISRP is the association of about 90 percent of the world's synthetic rubber producers. The member companies' dependence on oil-related feedstocks to make their products means there's a close connection between the oil and SR industries. That made Killian's long career in the oil business a good fit.
There is no other trade association in the rubber industry more international in scope than the IISRP—another reason Killian's background was solid. I imagine you'd have to be a bit of a diplomat to serve members from vastly different nations and cultures. Killian could handle that with aplomb.
Back in 1997 when Bill Tessmer retired as managing director of the institute, the IISRP selected another SR industry executive to succeed him. It turned into something of a disaster—let's just say the guy was a high roller, and that's not what the organization needed.
What it required was Dick Killian, who knew the IISRP and the needs of its members. He became the first staff member to get promoted into the managing director job, and served during a time of change for the group and the industry.
Picking IISRP staff rather than someone from the industry succeeded. It worked well enough that when Killian retired to his ranch in 1999, the organization chose another staff member, then-deputy managing director Jim McGraw, for the post, which he continues to hold. His pre-IISRP background was at an SR company.
I recall the last time I talked to Killian. The IISRP had just concluded its Annual General Meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, and I wanted to interview him about his upcoming retirement.
We sat out on a veranda, and he pulled out a cigar, lit it and leaned back in his chair, smiling—a victory cigar for a job well done.
He deserved it.
Noga is the editor of Rubber & Plastics News.