The Printing Ink Pioneer Award, presented by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), is given to individuals who have served the industry and their companies for many years.
Wally Whalen, Color Resolutions International’s quality compliance manager and a 2003 Pioneer Award recipient, typifies such an individual. A 28-year veteran of the ink industry, he began in Borden Chemical’s labs and helped develop a variety of innovative products. In 1986, he switched to regulatory affairs, and he has distinguished himself in that field.
Despite all of his efforts, Mr. Whalen was surprised that he received the prestigious honor.
“I was shocked,” Mr. Whalen said of his receiving the award. “It’s a great honor.”
His colleagues believe that Mr. Whalen is an ideal selection for the honor.
“I’ve known Wally since 1982,” said George Sickinger, CRI’s chairman, president and CEO. “Borden Chemical was particularly strong in metal deco, and Wally was one of our chief chemists. He’s a dedicated guy with a great personality who gets things done.”
“Wally has been here a long time, since I started here in 1980,” said Joe Schlinkert, CRI’s director of technology. “He’s a very detail oriented, very competent individual who takes on all responsibilities that fall on his desk.”
Joining the Ink Industry
A graduate of Florida Institute of Technology with an A.S. in oceanographic technology and a graduate with a B.S. in geology from Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Whalen joined the ink industry in the winter of 1976.
“Mike Gerkin, my brother-in-law, got me into the ink industry,” Mr. Whalen said. “He was at Borden, and he said that Borden’s printing ink division was hiring. I had worked six months in construction, and I needed a job for winter, so I interviewed with Harry Pansing, Borden’s technical director, and he hired me.”
Mr. Whalen’s first assignment was in the company’s liquid ink labs, and was first involved with the development of special moisture barrier coatings for packaging gravure.
“I started out in product R&D as a technician forpackaging gravure and flexo, developing inks for milk cartons,” Mr. Whalen said.
By 1982, Mr. Whalen was promoted to group leader, paste inks, working on heatset, sheetfed, metal deco and letterpress. During his time as group leader, he helped develop heat-curing polyester inks for metal beverage containers and the development of other new offset ink systems.
By 1986, Borden Chemical was on the verge of leaving the paste ink industry. At that time the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) had developed new standards including Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)and Borden Chemicals Printing Ink division selected Mr. Whalen to assist in that effort
“In 1986, Bordenhad developed a computer system for MSDS per OSHA’s mandates,” Mr. Whalen said. “I became involved in that, and became regulatory compliance manager in 1987.”
Regardless of the industry, taking on regulatory matters is a daunting challenge. For Mr. Whalen, whose background up to that point was in chemistry, becoming Borden Chemical’s regulatory compliance manager was quite a change.
“The learning curve was kind of steep, but Borden had a large legal and corporate staff that I learned from,” he said. “We had experts on areas ranging from toxicology to the environment, which really helped me. You have to keep data updated, so we belong to a wide variety of services, such as NAPIMand the LOLI database, which flags regulatory matters.”
A longtime proponent of NAPIM,Mr. Whalen had encouraged his company to rejoin NAPIM. Since then, he has been active in NAPIM’s government affairs, serving on the conservation committee of which he was, for a time, chairman.
He is also noted for his work with printers and printer groups in assisting printers to comply with the proliferating government regulations on water discharges and air emissions related to printing ink and printing ink solvents. He has frequently been a speaker before industry groups such as the AICC and others on the interpretation and application of FDA and CONEG regulations.
“It’s been a very interesting career in regulatory affairs,” Mr. Whalen said. “Having a technical background in regulatory affairs gives you an understanding of where we are now as opposed to then. Back then, inks were primarily solvent-based, while now most everything we do is water-based. Environmental regulations drive a lot of what we do, and they make you aware of the effects of these products even after they are used.”
On top of his roles in regulatory compliance, Mr. Whalen handles CRI’s quality control. He is also leading the company’s ISO registration efforts. He credits the hard work of his associates, particularly Sue Limke and Thomas Jones, with allowing him to maintain so many roles, and he is also thankful to his many mentors over the years, including Mr. Pansing, Mr. Gerkin, Rich Podhajny, John Marino, Don King, Pete Doyle, Dick Hoppermann, Magro Auskaps, John Edelbrock and George Sickinger.
Outside of work, Mr. Whalen volunteers with the Boy Scouts. His wife, Diane, is mayor of Florence, KY; they have two children, Lindsey and Jared, who are attending the University of Kentucky.
For Mr. Whalen, receiving the Pioneer Award is a reflection of the people who have worked with him throughout the years.
“After I received the award, it appeared in our company newsletter,” he said. “I wrote a note that the reason I won the Pioneer Award was all the people I worked with, past and present. I initially took the job on a temporary basis to earn some money, but it has been a very rewarding career.”