My STLE Presidency

Paul Hetherington | TLT President's Report June 2021

Although this has been a different year, I’ve had an amazing experience.

I am quite likely the only STLE President to complete their entire term in a pair of slippers, so I’m retiring my old slippers with the STLE gavel of leadership and wearing new slippers.

Wow, to say the least, this has definitely been a different year than I originally thought or planned as my one-year term as STLE President comes to a close. Having been a member of STLE for more than 30 years and having attended 25 STLE Annual Meetings, I thought I had a good idea on the kind of year I might have and the shoes I would try to fill. Who would have ever predicted that I wouldn’t actually need shoes at all, as, to the best of my knowledge, I am quite likely the only STLE President to complete their entire term in a pair of slippers.

Seriously, though, even with all of the differences in the past year, it would be impossible to express how amazing this experience has been.

First, though, I need to start by thanking some key people. Most importantly, I need to start with my wife, Lyse, who has endured through a long year of days and evenings with me buried in my laptop trying to manage two full-time jobs. Yes, I didn’t travel, but I am sure to Lyse it must have felt like I really wasn’t home either. I definitely could not have gotten through the year without her love and support, and for that I consider myself the luckiest president ever. Je t’aime.

Second, I need to thank HollyFrontier Lubricants & Specialties and all of my colleagues at Petro-Canada Lubricants. I absolutely could not have fulfilled this role as STLE President without the support of my organization, colleagues and team, and I am grateful for their support.

When it comes to family, I can’t believe how much they were behind me and cheering me on—even though I am not really sure they actually understand what this tribology stuff is all about. Thank you so much for being in my corner.

It would be impossible to appropriately thank STLE Executive Director Ed Salek and the entire STLE staff. I continue to be amazed every day by the work and dedication that this very small team accomplishes. I most definitely will miss my weekly 7:00 a.m. phone calls with Ed. I truly can’t think of a better way to start an early Thursday morning. Thank you for making this past year a cherished experience.

And then, to top off usually long and difficult weeks, I got to start my early Friday mornings with the STLE Executive Committee. Wow, what a great group of individuals this was to work with. They definitely made the last year much easier than it could have been. I had the pleasure of following in the footsteps of STLE Immediate Past President Mike Duncan as I worked my way through the Executive Committee rotation. They were big shoes to fill (hence the slippers comment earlier), but his guidance helped make the path easier to navigate. But coming up behind me is an amazing group of leaders that are going to steer this organization to new and exciting heights. STLE Vice President Ken Hope, Secretary Ryan Evans and Treasurer Hong Liang will continue to do great things for the society. And a big welcome to Jack McKenna who is coming in as STLE Treasurer for this coming year. Based on these amazing individuals, the society is in very good hands.

When it comes to leadership, though, I can’t say enough about the entire STLE Board of Directors and its dedication during the last year, especially through a significant amount of uncertainty. A year ago, the board committed to 11 specific goals that it wanted to accomplish in the coming year—and accomplish it did. I was repeatedly impressed with the STLE board dedication with our Strategy & Surveillance Teams, which have continued to grow as a valuable function of the board. In addition, the board and Executive Committee finalized the new STLE Strategic Plan, which clearly lays out the plans and goals for the next three years. And, finally, the board approved the new shorter but, in my opinion, more effective and inspiring vision of Perfecting Motion.

The STLE Executive Committee was a great group of individuals to work with. From left to right: Michael Duncan, Ryan Evans, Paul Hetherington, Ken Hope, Ed Salek and Hong Liang.

I stand on the shoulders of the STLE past presidents and leaders whose footsteps it has been a pleasure to follow. In particular, the foresight of these leaders to ensure that the society built financial reserves for the potential of a rainy day in the future—and, in this case, it has been more like a storm. But because of their forethought, we were in a good position to weather the storm and to not reduce our relevancy as the world’s premier society dedicated to tribology and lubrication engineering.

Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to travel this year, I did have the honor of participating in a few interesting events over the last 12 months. First was the Fuels & Lubes Asia panel discussion podcast, then the Lubrication Technology Forum (LTF) virtual conference organized by PetroChina, keynote speaker at the Lubmat 2020 online conference and, of course, participated in the STLE Virtual Tribology Frontiers Conference. I also recently participated in the ELGI-STLE Tribology Exchange Workshop. In addition, I gave presentations at several STLE Local Section meetings, including Alberta, Canton, Philadelphia and Hamilton, as well as presented at the Toronto Section’s Education Day and the Monterrey Section Tribology Week. It was very unfortunate that I was unable to participate in these events in person, but I was definitely pleased to participate virtually.

Well, as I wrap up, let me tell you that the entire society is in great hands next year with STLE President Ken Hope. I have had the sincere pleasure of working with Ken on the board when we were both directors and then on the Executive Committee. I am very excited to still have a seat at the table as STLE Immediate Past President to witness Ken’s leadership and guidance.

I will never forget this experience. Thanks again for allowing me to be your STLE President during this past year. I look forward to joining my friends on the STLE Presidential Council and, most importantly, watching from the sidelines as our society and its members continue their search for Perfecting Motion. Enjoy the journey. I certainly did.

Paul Hetherington is senior technical services advisor for HollyFrontier Lubricants & Specialties in Peachland, British Columbia, Canada. You can reach him at