The History of the Tappan Zee Section

The Tappan Zee Section of AIChE was established in 1976 as a special sub-section of the New York Section, covering Rockland and Westchester counties in New York State. Full Section status was obtained in March 1977.


In the 1970’s, the Westchester and Rockland areas of New York State was 快2彩票 to several companies having large corporate engineering departments or research and development centers, some employing hundreds of engineers.  Stauffer Chemical and Union Carbide played key roles in the founding of the Tappan Zee Section. Other companies were also well represented: General Foods, Ciba-Geigy, Lederle Labs, International Paper and St. Regis Paper.

The founding officers included:

  • Mark Carron (Stauffer)
  • Alan Zagoria (Union Carbide)
  • Thomas Giordano (Stauffer)
  • Stephen Taub (Consumers Union)

The significance of Stauffer Chemical and Union Carbide in early development of the section can be seen in the yearly roster of officers.  For the first eleven years, 1977 to 1987, over 70 % of the section’s officers came from one of these two companies.


During the 1980’s and 1990’s, these major companies consolidated, diversified or relocated. Stauffer Chemical exhibits a particularly convoluted story, indicative of the pace of mergers and acquisitions during the 1980’s. Cheseborough-Ponds purchased Stauffer in 1984, and was in turn acquired by Unilever in 1987. Unilever did not want to retain Stauffer and sold it to ICI in 1987. ICI kept the Agricultural Group, sold the Inorganic Chemicals Group to Rhone-Poulenc and sold the Specialty Chemical Group to Akzo-Nobel, who now operates the Dobbs Ferry facility. By 1988, the Stauffer Corporate Engineering staff had been reduced from 300 to 25 and the Research Process Development staff had been reduced from 60 to 25.

Other area companies have undergone their own restructuring. Many of the sites where the initial Tappan Zee Section members worked now have different names than at the founding in 1977. Union Carbide split into several parts including UOP and Praxair. The General Foods facility is now Kraft. The Ciba-Geigy Additives Division is now part of Ciba Specialty Chemicals and the pharmaceutical facility is now part of Novartis. Lederle Labs was bought by Wyeth-Ayerst, who was bought by American 快2彩票 Products. The St. Regis Paper facility became part of Champion International, which was taken over by International Paper, who closed the W. Nyack facility.

As the local industry changed, the area chemical engineers and section members who formerly worked for these large companies either relocated or found work elsewhere. This has often been in smaller companies, other industries, governmental agencies, consulting engineering firms or as independent consultants. The roster of Tappan Zee Section officers reflects this changing nature of the local chemical industry. Over the eleven years, 1988 to 1998, less than 30 % of the officers came from what would be considered a “traditional” chemical company. Fewer still came from the “descendants” of the founder companies.

Section’s Purpose

Throughout the 20+-year history of the Tappan Zee Section and amidst the changing environment of the local industry, the purposes of the section have evolved. The original charter of the Tappan Zee Section stated that “The purposes of the Section, a nonprofit scientific, educational and charitable organization, are the furtherance of the aims and purposes of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the advancement of the science of chemical engineering through (i) the education of members and non-members in the sciences, (ii) career guidance and financial assistance to students of the science, and (iii) encouragement of research in the science. The current Tappan Zee Section activities reflect a broader view of technical issues and member interests.

Current Activities

Dinner meetings are held monthly, except during the summer. These meetings are often jointly sponsored with other local AIChE sections or with other local technical societies. A broad range of topics is presented covering both specific technical information and also knowledge of a more general nature. Recent meeting topics have included: The Chemistry of Coffee Roasting; Hazardous Waste Incinerator Calculations; DNA Nanotechnology; Project Management; Plastics, Society & Ethics; Manned Flight to Mars; and The Evolution of Chemical Engineering.

The section newsletter, News Columns, was published bi-monthly until recently and included news from many sources: meeting reviews, announcements of upcoming events, information from National AIChE, and career information including job opportunities. News Columns received the Marx Isaacs Award for Outstanding Newsletter in both 1993 and 1997. The Tappan Zee Section has “adopted” the AIChE student chapter of Manhattan College, first presenting a Career Guidance Seminar in 1983. The section sponsors an annual Career Night with the help of local companies who sponsor the students’ attendance and provide representatives to review and critique résumés and conduct mock interviews.  The section has just extended its school involvement to include City College and Columbia University.

The section participates in the Tri-County Science Fair for high school students in Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties by providing judges.  The section spearheaded a consortium of engineering societies, Children’s Discovery Center, Westchester Technology Teachers, and Science Teachers of New York State to stage the first Tri-County Science Fair, April 30, 1994 at SUNY Purchase College. The section received the 1995 John C. Heiman Impact Award for Excellence in Education Support, which recognizes outstanding educational initiatives, especially activities to promote pre-college mathematics and science education.

The Tappan Zee Section was a founding member of the Hudson Valley Council of Technical Societies (HVCTS) in July 1994. This is an organization of over 20 technical societies and educational institutions in the mid and lower Hudson Valley within the tri-state area of NY, NJ and CT. The organization’s interests are in networking and education outreach. One of the Tappan Zee Section’s regular joint monthly meetings is a PC workshop presented by the HVCTS. The incoming President of the HVCTS is the Tappan Zee AIChE Past President, Peter Belmonte.

The Tappan Zee Section of AIChE has been on-line since 1997. The current address of its website is located at . The Local Section list, Atlantic area, under Member 快2彩票, has a hyperlink to the Tappan Zee 快2彩票 page.

Early Activities

Prior to 1976, local membership for many AIChE members in our area amounted to attending New York Section meetings, which were usually held at lunchtime in New York City. This was probably an acceptable arrangement if you worked close to the city and your employer allowed you to attend meetings that sometimes extended past the lunch hour. But for those chemical engineers employed in Westchester and Rockland, a lunchtime trek to New York City may have been too much to handle. Only once a year did the New York Section venture out to Westchester to hold a dinner meeting. Apparently, the idea of monthly meetings held locally in the evening caught fire among chemical engineers in the Westchester/Rockland area. To address this burgeoning need, the New York Section created a special “subsection” in 1976 specifically to represent the chemical engineers working in Westchester and Rockland. Tappan Zee was chosen as the official moniker of the subsection, which “bridged” chemical engineers together from the two counties.

The first full meeting of the Tappan Zee Sub-Section of the New York Section of AIChE was held on October 1, 1976 at The Pleasantville Country Club. Billed as a “couple’s night,” members could invite a guest and the cost was $8.50 per person. The kickoff meeting was a huge success. The speaker was Dr. Charles Ware, a local area consultant, who discussed “Household Chemical Engineering,” which was a “lighthearted treatment of chemical engineering problems in terms of their household counterparts.” At this first meeting, the officers were formally installed by Robert Jacks of Union Carbide, a director of National AIChE. Bob also served as Tappan Zee’s unofficial sponsor or liaison with National for years to come. Our charter and bylaws were approved at this meeting.

The sub-section started with 162 members, with an average of 50 members attending monthly dinner meetings. That was nearly one-third of the membership at each meeting! Of course, this was back in the days when Stauffer Chemical employed 600 people at its Dobbs Ferry Research and Engineering Center. Union Carbide also employed 150 to 200 chemical engineers at its Technical Center in Tarrytown. In addition, there were many chemical engineers from such companies as General Foods (now Kraft Foods), Ciba-Geigy, Lederle Labs, International Paper, and the St. Regis Paper Co.  But it was Stauffer and Union Carbide that initially guided the section through its first years and ensured its success.

When Tappan Zee was finally “divorced” from the New York Section and assumed full section status in March 1977, the founding officers were still serving in their original positions: Chairman Mark Carron, Stauffer Chemical; Vice Chairman Alan Zagoria, Union Carbide; Secretary Tom Giordano, Stauffer Chemical; Treasurer Steve Taub, Consumers Union; and Councilor Larry Lewis, Stauffer Chemical.  Many committees were established immediately including: membership, program, publicity, constitution, awards, auditing, professional development, technical symposia and the 1977 National Meeting (held in New York). We still have a copy of the original organization chart of the sub-section, drafted in late 1976!

Our first section newsletter, titled simply “Newsletter” under the newly designed logo of a bridge under the AIChE shield, was published in March 1978 with Ron Ambrosini as editor. (It wasn’t until the mid-80’s that the newsletter was later named News Columns.) The Chairman of the Section, Alan Zagoria, wrote that, “I expect 1978 to be the year which will show us whether this area can support an active, enthusiastic, and productive local AIChE section.” He envisioned three areas of activity for the section: professional development, improving the relationship between our members and their management, and the interaction between chemical engineers and the outside world.

As part of the agenda to address these concerns, one of our early special events included an annual “Managers’ Luncheon,” where executives of the local companies met with the section officers to discuss issues affecting chemical engineers and their employers in this area. It’s ironic that a section conceived from the idea of holding local monthly dinner meetings should find early success in the form of a lunchtime meeting!

Much has changed over the past twenty years with companies leaving the area and many local chemical engineers suffering the after effects of “downsizing.” But fortunately the Tappan Zee section is going strong, still providing members with an active, enthusiastic, and productive local AIChE Section.