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Engineering doesn't end with retirement

Stan's Marshall's energy efficient design
Stan's Marshall's energy efficient designphoto by Robin Wood

There could be no greater spokesperson for engineers and their field than Stan Marshall. He entered the world of engineering over 50 years ago as an undergraduate at UMaine, but even in retirement he continues to tap into the qualities that infused his professional life. He is enthusiastic, engaging, and unflaggingly determined to make the world a little bit better. More pointedly, he is determined to make things better right here in the state of Maine.

Stan’s one-of-a-kind home in Veazie was my first clue to his propensity for innovation. He designed his house to be both attractive and energy efficient. It is heated almost exclusively with a centrally located woodstove and solar power. Every room is bright with natural light from multiple levels of windows, all of which can be covered by pulley-controlled panels for heat retention.

It became clear as I got my house tour that Stan is a practiced educator. That, I learned from Stan, is no coincidence. “Engineers are fantastic teachers,” he said. “The fundamental principle of engineering is to bring change…We are persuasive, we have to convince people to change.” When he explains the theory behind a particular design or how a system works, he lights up, prompts with questions, and irresistibly transfers his excitement to his audience.

Stan became a great teacher as part of his life’s plan. “My strategy was from the first to be prepared to make a living…Teaching was the second string for my bow.” At UMaine he had almost as much education in teaching as he did in engineering. His first job, in fact, was teaching math and science at Machias High School. When he realized that he could make more money as an engineer, where teaching would always be a part of the work, he took his first job as an engineer in the paper industry.

The paper industry became a centerpoint for Stan for the next few decades. Stan was executive director of UMaine’s Pulp and Paper Foundation for 25 years. In addition to offering thousands of dollars in scholarship money to UMaine’s engineering program every year, including full tuition scholarships to qualified students, the Foundation introduces students to the field of engineering through summer programs and year round workshops in high schools all over the state.

Over the course of two decades, Stan taught engineering career exploration seminars to high school juniors and seniors as many as 17 times a year. “A lot of people don’t even know what engineering means…They don’t teach it in high school.” They were never pushy, Stan explained, they just wanted to tell students, “Come take a look at engineering, and we hope you’ll stay.” Many of them did stay. Dozens of fine engineers that have come out of UMaine’s program were introduced to engineering by Stan Marshall.

Maine continues to be the beneficiary of Stan’s contributions in his retirement, and it goes way beyond the pulp and paper industry. He is the founding president of the Penobscot Valley Senior College, regional coordinator for the AARP (and volunteer tax-aide - he filed over 200 tax returns last spring), chair of the Maine Legal Services for the Elderly, and continues volunteer work on multiple boards.

Retirement is a relative term for people like Stan. “I work just as much,” he quipped, “I just don’t get paid any more.”

There is a quotation on the Pulp and Paper Foundation’s web page from aerospace engineer Theodore Von Darmam: “Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.” It is a bold statement, but one that rings true in a life like Stan’s. When your career revolves around teaching, persuasion, and change, innovative thinking is an essential element of everything you do. When you combine that quality with a devotion to hard work and contribution, everybody benefits.

“Some say we’re arrogant,” Stan told me with a smile; “I don’t think we’re arrogant. We’re just resourceful.”

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Robin Clifford Wood publishes articles for the examiner and in the Bangor Daily News. To read more by Robin, browse her examiner page, the BDN website, and her blog about sunrise and life transitions: a year of getting up to meet the day. Feedback is always welcome at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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