Cement Worker of the Month
Mr. Kenneth W. Smith Jr. was reared in East Allentown, graduating from Dieruff High School in 1967, where he was band president, played trumpet and was a member of the swimming team that won a District 11 title in 1965.
Ken enrolled in Clemson University with a swimming scholarship. He also played rugby.
"The sport was very physical and I met players from many foreign countries," he recalled.
During summers, he was one of 1,500 students who were employed at the Bethlehem Steel. On Saturdays, Ken repaired lawn mowers for Cann's Lawn Equipment.
"One of my cherished memories was playing in a dance band before an audience of 14,000 for a Bob Hope show at the university," he says. "We met Bob. He was friendly, a great man. By the way, tuition was $10,000 for a four-year degree. I graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 1971."
His first employment was at the Lingl Company in Tennessee, a brick and tile manufacturer. He was paid a salary of $7,500.
Returning home, Ken answered an ad from Hercules Cement, now Buzzi Unicem, and was hired as a project manager. He especially remembers old-timers George Odenwelder and Carl Laudenslager, who shared their years of experience with the young engineer.
His cement odyssey later took Ken to South Down Cement in Tennessee for five years. He then returned to Hercules in 1991.
"Today, I work as an engineering manager on capitol projects at the plant," he said. "Millions have been spent to improve the plant's efficiency and safety. We were especially inspired by Mr. Dennis Bittenbender, a disabled employee who was an example to all of us at the plant."
Over the years, Mr. Smith has worked with hundreds of outside contractors who have done projects at the Stockertown plant.
"Safety is a priority," he says. "Some work can be dangerous, so we closely monitor all projects. The plant also must comply with federal and state regulations."
Ken has enjoyed his 40 years in the industry, taking satisfaction when they can improve the cement process.
"I have met people from all over the world," he said. "Our plant manager is from Brazil, another supervisor is a native of South Africa, both fine men."
A cement plant is more than equipment; it's working together as a team.
Mr. Smith has been married to the former Joy Robbins of Paris, Tenn., for 39 years. They are proud of their daughter Carey, a teacher, and son Adam, an engineer. In his spare time he built his own car, a Cobra replica, and is a soccer fan. The Smiths reside in Bethlehem.
An amiable gentleman with a positive philosophy, Ken loves the cement industry and the friendships forged there over the years. We wish Ken and his co-workers continued success at the landmark Stockertown plant.