Cantu Receives Pioneer Award

By Jenn Hess, Ink World Associate Editor | 10.02.09

NAPIM honors 31-year industry veteran for his dedication to the business and efforts outside of the ink lab.

Keeping the names of award winners a secret during association conventions is never easy. How do you get the person to attend without being the least bit suspicious? What if someone who’s ‘in-the-know’ slips beforehand?

In the case of Sun Chemical’s Bob Cantu, however, he was completely unaware that he was going to be a recipient of a 2001 National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) Pioneer Award during the NAPIM convention. “Sun told me they would like to take 30-plus year employees to the NAPIM convention,” said Mr. Cantu, Sun Chemical’s national product/market manager for paper packaging.

If he did hear his name during the awards presentations, Mr. Cantu said he thought it would be for his prowess on the tennis court, not his accomplishments in the ink lab. “I won the second flight of the NAPIM tennis tournament, so that’s what I thought I was going to be honored for.”

As Mr. Cantu listened to the description of one unaware Pioneer Award honoree, he realized that Michael Murphy, Sun Chemical’s senior vice president and general manager, ink operations and outgoing NAPIM president, was talking about him. “I was shocked,” he said. “When Mike Murphy started to talk and get more specific, I couldn’t believe it.”

Mr. Cantu joins a long list of Sun Chemical employees to receive a NAPIM Pioneer Award. In the past two years, Elizabeth Scherer (2000) and Anthony Bean (1999) have also received Pioneer Awards.

Industry Veteran

After graduating from the University of Texas with a B.A. degree in zoology and chemistry and spending four years in the Navy, Mr. Cantu started his pursuit of a career in the chemical industry. His first position was a project chemist at a pharmaceutical company.

Mr. Cantu’s career in the ink industry took off when he joined Inmont in 1970 as a lab formulator. “I wanted to stay in the chemical field, and was hired on the spot at Inmont.” Thirty-one years later, he has been employed by three ink manufacturers, all through acquisitions.

Until Sun’s acquisition of BASF, Mr. Cantu was involved with many different printing processes – including flexo, offset, letterpress, UV and gravure – in both formulating and sales positions. Now his work focuses on flexography. Prior to his appointment to his current position last year, other positions Mr. Cantu has held within Sun Chemical included product manager, market manager and national accounts manager of Sun’s preprint, bags and specialty group.

He has thoroughly enjoyed his time with Sun Chemical. “Sun is the company I feel the most indebted to – everyone really works as a team,” said Mr. Cantu. “As long as you do your part, and a little bit more, you’ll be noticed.

“So many divisions at Sun Chemical have been successful, no one person has been responsible,” he continued. “Great people have helped to move the company, and the industry, forward.”

Mr. Cantu’s responsibilities have taken him all over the world. Recently he’s been making frequent trips to Latin America, where his fluency in Spanish has been very useful.

“I go to Mexico at least twice a year and spend entire days training flexo printers in Spanish,” he said. “I learned Spanish through friends, as well as writing papers in English and then translating them into Spanish.”

Outside the Office

While Mr. Cantu’s responsibilities at Sun keep him busy, they haven’t prevented him from giving countless presentations at universities and industry conferences. During this year’s Flexo Forum, he spoke about “Printing Challenging Substrates” during the corrugated/preprint session.

“Giving presentations forces you to learn more and do better,” said Mr. Cantu. “You have to do a lot of research on the topics, and you’re also learning from the audience.”

As a member of the flexo advisory staff at Clemson University from 1979 to 1990, he helped to design the flexographic curriculum and presented numerous training programs. Earlier this year he presented a two-hour offset, gravure and flexo training seminar to undergraduate and graduate students for the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI). Mr. Cantu has also made presentations at Georgia State University, Fox Valley Technical College, Central Piedmont Community College and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The ink industry, however, doesn’t take up all of his time. Each year he gives a presentation to the Charlotte Astronomy Club. He also enjoys flyfishing and tennis.

Well-Deserved Accolades

The Pioneer Award might have come as a surprise to Mr. Cantu, but Sun Chemical executives feel it is an honor well-deserved.

“Bob is a high energy person, always upbeat and positive,” said Mr. Murphy. “He adds a lot of credibility to the product line he handles and to Sun Chemical.”

Jim Wegemer, Sun Chemical’s director of paper packaging sales and marketing and Mr. Cantu’s manager, agreed. “Bob has made a significant contribution over the years in enhancing and promoting the printing ink industry,” said Mr. Wegemer. “We are truly fortunate to have people like him – an educator to those who seek knowledge, an advocate for our customers and a champion for our industry.”

“Bob is an outstanding performer who always can be counted on to go the extra mile,” said Christopher Morrissey, Sun Chemical’s vice president of sales and marketing. “He has shown this over the 30-plus years he has been in the ink industry. That’s the reason his colleagues often refer to him as ‘Can-do Cantu.’”