A Conversation with Dr. James Lindsay

Traveling is the biggest hobby for Dr. James Lindsay. who received the NASF Presidential Award at the organization’s 2018 SUR/FIN conference for his years of contribution to the finishing industry and to the various organizations that support the industry.
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Dr. James Lindsay received the NASF Presidential Award at the organization’s 2018 SUR/FIN conference for his contribution to the finishing industry and to the various organizations that support the industry. A contributing technical editor for Products Finishing and an avid traveler, he was honored for his years of service to the NASF and AESF as technical editor of the scientific papers and research that they publish.


PF: You recently spent a few weeks traveling the Alaskan Alcan Highway. What attracted you to that route?

JL: I have always had a passion for road travel. The prospect of a motor trip from my home to the state of Alaska on the full-length of the Alaska Highway had always been on my bucket list. With the encouragement of my wonderful wife, a good report from my doctor and the thought that I wasn’t getting any younger, this was the year.

PF: What were your feelings when you received the NASF Presidential Award?

JL: After the joyous shock wore off, I felt valued and that even in semi-retirement, you can still make a contribution. It was the second peak of my career, the first being the AESF Scientific Achievement Award in 1996.

PF: How did you get your start in finishing?

JL: An electroplating demonstration by my high school chemistry teacher, gave the preliminary spark. Watching the metallic color change to copper was intriguing. Soon, I learned that my father was involved with electroplating as well, and learning more about it is what made the final sale.

PF: How has finishing changed since when you first entered the industry?

JL: It’s like night and day, in two major ways. First, occupational health and environmental concerns have challenged the industry. Although, much work over the decades has met many of those challenges. Second, all of the technological developments that were non-existent in the 1950s and 1960s have improved productivity, product quality and opened doors to yet further surface finishing technologies.

PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given? ?

JL: Life is too short, so make the most of it. You will turn around twice and you’re in the winter of your life.

PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

JL: A co-op student at General Motors Institute, now Kettering University. I had the good fortune to start applying what I learned in school in an industrial environment from the first day.

PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?

JL: Either the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society. I’ve lost too many family members, friends and colleagues to these two scourges.

PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?

JL: The first one was a 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible. Dream car is the open two-seat Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider with convertible bodywork by Pininfarina, or the Aston Martin DB-5.

PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?

JL: Respect for the people you work with. And hopefully knowing when to shut up.

PF: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JL: A vague something in science.

PF: Night owl or early bird?

JL: Early bird, although it’s getting harder to wake up at 6 a.m. Qualifier: I was often a night owl until Johnny Carson retired.

PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?

JL: My home town of Fenton, Michigan where I grew up, commuted to work, and now work at home. Nonetheless, I miss every other place I’ve lived.

PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?

JL: Faraday Technology. They are in the forefront of research in surface finishing technology; if I were starting over, they would be getting my resume.

PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?

JL: Travel planner.

PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?

JL: In semi-retirement, every day is a Saturday, so I could be working on NASF work, household chores, or out and about. However, Sunday morning is for church.

PF: Best way to keep a competitive edge?

JL: Study, study and study. Time flies and you can become outdated in a hurry.

PF: Personal heroes?

JL: The late Professor Harold Read from Penn State University, my mom and dad, and mentors; too numerous to mention.

PF: How do you motivate people?

JL: With respect for what they offer.

PF: How do you motivate yourself?

JL: Schedule realistically and take deadlines seriously. No matter how trivial they seem, someone is depending on you.

PF: Three greatest passions?

JL: Family is my number one passion. Then music—specifically jazz from the Great American Songbook—and then motoring and going places and seeing things

PF: Best business decision?

JL: Choosing a research and engineering career in metal finishing.

PF: Worst business decision?

JL: Leaving GM after grad school when the grass seemed greener on the other side of the fence. At least I was able to return.

PF: Biggest management myth?

JL: When a company is taken over by another, you are told that nothing will change.

PF: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

JL: Make it 30 years ago. Your best years may well be those when the person that hires you is around. After that, you may become ‘inherited,’ and you need to prepare thoughtfully to continue to have those best years.

PF: Word that best describes you:

JL: Easygoing.



Get to Know Dr. James Lindsay

Family: Wife, Gloria, and I are working on our 55th year of marriage; three adult children, and four grandchildren ranging from 1½ to 12. Unfortunately, three live in the state of Washington, about 2,500 miles away.

Favorite hobby: Collecting old oil company and other road maps, and motoring on the roads they cover. Also photography, although I never took a course.

Favorite movie: The whole collection of Pink Panther and James Bond movies.

Favorite book: I’m an avid reader, so a single book is hard to pin down. My favorite categories however, are historical biographies and spy thrillers.

What’s playing in your car CD/radio: “Take the A Train” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.