Marty Graves works in Technical Services for INEOS Oligomers. He is currently the Houston Section's Chair, and previously served as Treasurer. You can find his contact information in our membership database.
What roles have you previously filled at the Houston Section? I’ve maintained the Houston Section website since shortly after I moved to Texas, as I had done for the Chicago Section for many years while I was a member and Media Chair there.
What are some things you’re doing at your section that would be valuable for other section leaders to know about? I’m in a unique position, because of valuable experience gained during my years with the Chicago Section, which can be cross-fertilized in the Houston Section. For example, the Chicago Section completely revised their Section bylaws while I was there; in reviewing the Houston Section bylaws (from 1964), they are in need of revision as well.
The Chicago Section meeting had been forced into a different location by a venue closing (but had already been looking for alternatives); the Houston Section is now in the process of determining the center-of-mass of our membership, to see if our current meeting location is still appropriate. This occasional introspection of section governance and activities is important to make sure that the section remains relevant.
What does your scholarship process entail? Currently the Houston Section is funding approximately $6000 in scholarships (including STLE matching funds), which is divided equally between three colleges (University of Houston, Texas A&M and Lamar University). The funds come from our annual Lube School and the annual Golf Outing (with partial matching from STLE). The Section has stipulated certain requirements – recipient must be an undergraduate or graduate student involved with pursuing lubricant related topics. Outside of that stipulation, our university contacts are allowed to allocate the scholarship based on their judgment. We have been recently seeing an increase in “split scholarships” (between several students), and will be investigating moving the scholarship awarding process back into the Section, to remove the pressure from the university contact and grant a single award at each university.
In what ways do you encourage students and young professionals to get involved with the section and/or attend meetings? The section hosts an annual Lube School that provides us with the opportunity to bring in young employees, and help bring them into the network. By offering a two-level fee structure for the school, we are able to fund a one-year “free STLE membership” that comes with non-member Lube School attendance. These new members are then provided with information of the local Section’s activities, as are the full Section membership.
We bring students into the lubricant arena by webcasting our monthly technical meetings to an engineering group at Texas A&M, and we’re looking at the other two universities we work with.
What are some giveaways you’ve provided that have been popular? We typically give away two or three $25 gift cards at each monthly technical meeting, raffled off to the members that are in attendance.
What are some social events you’ve hosted that have been popular? What are you planning for the upcoming year? According to the Section historians I’ve spoken with, social outings in the Houston Section have been rare. This year we are going to hold a combined technical meeting/plant tour/social event in December at the city’s oldest brewery.
Do you conduct a member survey? A member survey is still being planned – it will definitely be electronic. We tried soliciting suggestions via forms at our monthly meetings, with minimal response.
What is your attendance like at monthly meetings? If you have high attendance, what do you think is the main motivator? Typical meeting attendance has ranged from low teens (no speaker available, just a meet-and-greet) to around 50 (a noted university speaker on topic of interest). Our average is around 25 – 30. The topic is definitely one motivator, while travel schedules can also influence attendance.
Given your unique perspective, have you noticed any differences between sections? Not surprisingly, there are differences between sections. I’d never really considered that before, but there are enough differences so that things that work in Chicago may not work in Houston (and vice versa). Houston has lunch meetings to avoid the traffic and long distances to travel, while Chicago had evening meetings to avoid conflict with work schedules. The Houston area is heavily into rotating equipment (pumps, turbines, off-shore drilling) lubrication – while Chicago was heavily into metalworking fluids. As a result, programs that were presented in Chicago were much different than those in Houston. The Chicago Section had a core of long-time members, while the Houston Section membership seems to be a revolving door - here for a short time, then moving on to a different job/location. This makes finding leaders that can commit to “running the chairs” more difficult. Hopefully, getting more members involved will ease that continual drain of talent.