By Dr. Maureen Hunter
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
That excerpt from Robert Frost’s famous poem describes the way I feel about STLE.
My STLE story started on a snowy night in 1989. I had 140 miles to go, alone in a car, along dark roads to arrive home. It was already 10 p.m., and I knew I wouldn’t arrive until the early hours of the morning, but it didn’t matter. My life’s course had been set into motion by the day’s events.
I had left my house in central Pennsylvania before 8 a.m. and drove to meet a man who had a huge impact on my life, Dr. E. Erwin Klaus, my advisor in grad school at Penn State. We were supposed to travel together to Pittsburgh that day for my first STLE local section meeting. I was the recipient of the Pittsburgh Section scholarship that year and was slated to be the speaker.
I practiced my talk with professor Klaus. He gave me a few suggestions and then said he had a family matter that would prevent him from going—but not to worry, I’d be fine.
I’ve now spent many evenings at STLE meetings, but like many first events in life my first meeting was the most memorable. I somewhat anxious about my presentation to a room full of tribologists and lubrication engineers. I knew no one, but that didn’t last long. I could not have met a nicer group of people.
I sat between Tom Pane and Laura Young, and if you don’t know either of them, you should know that they like to laugh. A lot. They made me feel comfortable, like I belonged there. All too soon I was introduced, gave my presentation and was awarded my $500 check (not bad for a grad student whose yearly stipend at the time was $9,000). I then started back the 140 miles to home.
I drove home slowly and reflected on the evening. I stuck my hand into my pocket. Good, I still had Tom’s business card. He had talked a lot during dinner about King Industries, and it seemed like he took great pride in working for them. He was kind to me when he said, “Call us when you’re done with school and looking for a job.” I decided to do just that. I stuck my hand into my other pocket. I also had Laura’s card. I liked that name, Laura. I thought, if I ever have a daughter, that would be a nice name. And that check—I thought about a lot of ways to spend that.
Little did I know that night of 25 years ago just how much my first STLE local section meeting had set my life’s course into motion. I’ve now worked at King Industries for more than 21 years. Our first daughter is named Laura. And that scholarship check—well, it’s long gone.
It may sound silly, but that scholarship award still holds a place of pride on my resume. It’s there along with other STLE achievements, including a term as TLT’s editor. I never dreamed I would be the editor of a magazine. Being involved with STLE all of these years has been a wonderful experience for me. And now I get to add president.
To the young STLE members who might have been just coming into the world as I traveled home on that blizzard night in 1989 and for our regular members who have taken a more passive role, I have this to say: If you want to enhance your network, take charge of your career or broaden your knowledge, get more involved with STLE. You never know what exciting career opportunities and life experiences will come your way.
For me many years ago, two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
Maureen Hunter is the technical service manager for King Industries, Inc. in Norwalk, Conn.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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