SPOTLIGHT: Larry Anker
Sparta, New Jersey
Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dan Gable once said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
There may be some truth to that. In fact, some studies have shown that individuals who competed in elite level athletics, i.e. collegiate, international, or professional level, were able to transfer the lessons of being a team player into the workplace. They displayed strengths in accomplishment-based skills, discipline, and communication.
We’re guessing that TAPPI member, and former high school and collegiate wrestler, Larry Anker, Ph.D., might agree. An active participant since joining TAPPI in 1992, Dr. Anker has published and presented numerous papers, served on committees, chaired sessions, and taught webinars and courses. Most recently he has been involved in TAPPI’s 100th Anniversary celebration, serving as Steering Committee chair. The festivities culminate this month with the Centennial Celebration Week, April 18 – 25 and the optional black tie gala on Monday, April 20.
Where does he get all that energy and drive from? Well, if you agree with Dan Gable, it might just be attributable to his long association with one of the world’s oldest sports.
Dr. Anker started wrestling at the tender age of five after arriving home from school one day with a YMCA flyer pinned to his shirt. “My mom read it and thought it would be a good activity to get me involved in,” he recounted. “I had a great coach who inspired me and kept me motivated … the rest is history.” An award-winning history at that.
In high school, Dr. Anker was a three-time New Jersey prep state champion and a two-time prep All American. At Washington and Lee University, he continued wrestling at the Division III varsity level and was named captain his senior year. That same year he was also recognized as the top scholar-athlete at the university, qualified to compete at the NCAA Division III nationals, and was recognized as an NCAA Academic All American. Thirty years later he still holds one of the top 10 career win totals at Washington and Lee, as well as the top five records for pins and take downs. After his college career, he became a certified Pennsylvania referee and worked middle school, high school, and weekend tournaments
His career has likewise been successful. After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Penn State University in 1992, he went to work at International Paper as a Research Scientist in the Papermaking Process Chemistry group. In 1998 he moved to Ashland and served as the Polymer Research & Development group leader and the Applications group leader. In 2014, he was named to his current position as Director of North American Applications with Solenis. Through his years in the industry, Dr. Anker said he’s come to view 50-pound Accent Opaque as his favorite product. “After spending many hours running trials to optimize the performance of that sheet and then observing the good and the bad run on an offset press, I have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for all the effort that goes into producing that product,” he said.
Whether in wrestling or in making superior paper products, Larry Anker has found that relentless dedication, commitment and perseverance are a winning formula.
Q. Why did you decide to join TAPPI?
A. I originally joined TAPPI in 1992 (when I entered the paper industry) at the suggestion of Dennis Kalberg, my manager at International Paper. Dennis is a strong supporter of TAPPI, and he understood the benefits that could be gained through networking with your industry peers.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI.
A. I have served in leadership positions (secretary, vice chair and chair) on both the Additives Committee and the Paper and Board Division over the past 12 years.
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
A. I have been very fortunate to have worked for companies (International Paper, Ashland, and now Solenis) that supported and encouraged involvement in TAPPI. This support has permitted me to publish and present papers, chair sessions, serve on committees, and teach in TAPPI-sponsored webinars and short courses. As with any volunteer organization, you get out what you put into it. For me and my involvement with TAPPI, this has been very true. I have been very engaged over the past 20 years, and I have benefitted greatly from that engagement.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. I am a dad. I have a wonderful wife, Wendy, and two perfect (OK ... I’m biased) daughters, Abbi and Josie. Most of my volunteer activities are related to my daughters. I have coached their softball teams and served as president of the 500-member Sparta Girls Sports program. I’ve also served on the board of their high school sports booster clubs.
Q. TAPPI’s 100-year anniversary is in 2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry?
A. As a wet end chemist, the most significant breakthrough in papermaking during my career would have to be the shift to alkaline papermaking. The challenges have been formidable, but the benefits converting from acid to alkaline papermaking have been worth the effort.
Q. Closing sentiments?
A. I have met many of the technical and commercial leaders of our industry which has been both educational and inspiring. Since my graduate school days at Penn State, I have enjoyed teaching and helping others, and TAPPI has provided me with many opportunities to volunteer as an instructor for TAPPI-sponsored courses. Finally, I have also made some good friends through TAPPI-sponsored events who I simply enjoy spending time with whenever we have the opportunity to get together.