(RBI Executive Director Norman Marsolan, center, pictured with Georgia Tech Executive Vice President for Research Steve Cross, left, and Chris Jones, Georgia Tech's associate vice president of research.)
RBI Executive Director Norman Marsolan colleagues at Georgia Tech and those who know his best within the industry are ensuring his contributions are not forgotten.
During RBI’s recent annual executive conference, those who know him best reflected on a science-oriented thinker with deep technical knowledge; a leader with a mind for strategy and forward-looking vision; and, above all else, a man who puts family first.
Steve Cross, the executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech, recalled his time with Norman as both a peer and as a friend.
“Norman was the steady hand throughout the evolution of the Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST) into the Renewable Bioproducts Institute … and the Institute continues to evolve today,” said Steve Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “He has taken the lead in developing and executing a vision for RBI, balancing a commitment to its origins and expanding its scope to explore new avenues of research that guarantee RBI’s place now and in the future.”
“My wife and I are also fortunate to call Norman and his wife, Maureen, friends. What I admire most of him is his commitment to those he loves — family comes first. Unfortunately for us, this means his retirement from Georgia Tech and relocation to California to be with his children and grandchildren.”
Dr. Marsolan receive his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from LSU and served as faculty from 1976 until 1988, when he joined International Paper. He held a variety of positions, including mill manager, director of technology manufacturing solutions and director of research and development.
Matt Bovee, a former company colleague, remembered Dr Marsolan’s tenure. “He was the manufacturing support leader for our Technology organization. Norman’s expertise and perseverance helped him maintain mill operations at a very high level during challenging times. This group still exists today as part of Norman’s legacy, and it is an organization recognized by other companies as a competitive asset.”
After 20 years at International Paper, he retired in 2008 and, in 2009, was named by Georgia Tech as executive director of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute and Professor of the Practice in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
“The IPST Foundation could not have found anyone better suited to the role,” said Kathleen Bennett, a friend and close colleague. “He had the academic background, the experience within an institute of higher learning and had held industry positions supporting innovation in technology, mill operations, and manufacturing excellence.
“Not only that — he held IPST in such high regard for its position within the industry and its nurturing of the technology and people to keep the industry adapting to changing times.”
In 2014, RBI received a $43.6 million gift from the Institute of Paper Chemistry Foundation (IPCF). This major grant — one of the single largest gifts in Georgia Tech’s history — affirmed the Institute’s position as a leading driver of the future of the forest bioproducts industry. The endowment, managed by Marsolan and his executive team at RBI, currently supports more than 50 paper science and engineering students who advance the research mission of RBI through their faculty-directed research.
In addition, Dr. Marsolan was instrumental in the creation of the Professional Master’s degree in Manufacturing Leadership (PMML), which provides an advanced degree that equips the next generation of operations leaders and facility managers with skills in teamwork, leadership, decision-making, and professional development, as well as exposure to leading-edge technology. The pulp and paper industry has taken advantage of this unique opportunity to encourage its experienced technical professionals to build their operations and personnel management skills and expertise.
Marsolan will leave his role as executive director on March 28, and Meisha L. Shofner has been named interim executive director. Shofner is an associate professor of materials science and engineering and has served as associate director of RBI since 2015.