Missed the People, Not the Work 

Mary Engelman realized she had more time to spend with people in her life
Industry Matters Newsletter
Mary Engelman
Mary Engelman

Mary Engelman earned a BS in 2019 from Liberty University in interdisciplinary studies, focused on engineering, chemistry, and business. In 1991, she received an associates degree in chemical technology from Northeast State Technical Community College. Engelman is the recipient of the 1991 Outstanding Graduate Award and was recognized as the Northeast State Community College Outstanding Alumna in 2011.

Mary retired from Eastman Chemical Company after more than 27 years, where she gained research experience in the Chemical Process and Engineering Research Laboratory, working with separation processes from bench to pilot scale. In 2000 she joined the Chemical Synthesis Research Laboratory, where she was a major contributor to commercializing several epoxy butadiene-based products, and in 2004 she joined the Chemistry and Catalysis Research Laboratory where she was actively involved in the process of discovering new, breakthrough catalytic processes. 

Mary has extensive experience in designing, constructing, and operating lab, bench, and pilot scale units for separation processes, organic synthesis, organic metallic chemistry, and experimental scale-up. She has a broad range of experience in experimental design and data analysis. Becoming a “hybrid,” she is involved in chemistry, engineering, and project innovation process management. 

Mary finished her career at Eastman working as a Growth Project Steward in Corporate Innovation as a facilitator of innovation project teams and business portfolios. Her work included project portfolio analysis, researching budgets, and facilitating business project team meetings. Mary received an honorable discharge from the US Air Force in 1988. 

Mary has more than 15 years of service to ACS with Local Section, Divisions, regional and national committees, leadership positions, task forces, and more. Mary was recognized as an ACS Fellows in 2009 and by NETSACS in 1997 when she received the NETSACS technician award. In 1998 she received the ACS National Chemical Technician award and in 2021 she received the ACS Volunteer Service Award.

Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you? 

Retirement … is it an easy choice? Yes and no, let me explain. I have learned a lot since I retired. I did not completely “choose” to retire. However, things were changing at work and in my personal life, so it was time for me to retire. Was I ready? Probably not, but it was time. However, I was not ready, I did not really know what “retirement” really meant.  I thought I was going to work forever. 

How was the transition from the working world to retirement? 

One of the first things I found out was that transitioning was a challenge for me. I enjoyed working, I needed to have a routine, I had to have something to do, and I needed to contribute. I missed talking with colleagues and collaborating with teams. 

However, I realized I did not miss the work, I missed the people. Since I realized what I was missing, I was able to identify how to “be retired.” This was one of my biggest challenges I needed to address when I retired. I did not know who I was as a “retired person.” I needed to identify who I am and rebrand myself.  

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Assuming they would listen, what’s your best advice for someone in their 20s/30s? 

If I could go back in time and talk to my 25-year-old self or share with any of the 20–30-year-old professionals of today, I would tell them to prepare for the future. Life is ever-changing and we must adjust accordingly.  Keep moving on with your future, never stop growing. All of us must learn to live life to the fullest and plan for the future.  I wish I would have taken the time to build a short-term, mid-term, and long-term plan for life.   

How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree? 

I retired from work; however, I did not retire from life! I enjoy time with my family. I spend special times with my mom, my husband, my daughters, and my grandchildren. I love to keep connected with scientists and friends in ACS within the Local section, regional and national meetings. I love to mentor and am mentored from students, young industry professionals, professors, and more. I have the time to do what I love to do by giving back to the profession and volunteer. I also volunteer within the community by helping others. This is my new brand and who I am today. Who knows who I will be tomorrow?   

What guidance do you have for people who are getting ready to retire? 

For those that are getting ready to retire, please evaluate who you want to be as a “retired person.”  We own our path in life, this includes our path in retirement. Take the leadership role in your retirement. Remember, you may retire from work, but you do not have to retire from life. Keep growing and giving.  

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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