James F. Brazdil most recently held the position of group director, process chemistry and catalysis research with Archer Daniels Midland Company before retiring in 2020. In this role, he was responsible for the leadership of ADM’s catalysis research and development (R&D) activities. This included direction of internal and external laboratory programs in the sustainable materials field. He previously was R&D manager with INEOS Technologies and previously held research positions at BP and SOHIO. He received a B.S. in chemistry from John Carroll University, summa cum laude and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. He has 100 patented inventions and has published scientific papers and presented numerous invited lectures on selective oxidation catalysis science.
Jim most recently received the Distinguished Researcher Award of the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society in 2020. He has also received awards for his technical and leadership accomplishments including the Technical Achievement Award of the Cleveland Technical Societies Council, the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society Award in Catalysis, the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York Award for Excellence in Catalysis, and the Herman Pines Award in Catalysis from the Catalysis Club of Chicago. He was selected as an American Chemical Society Fellow in 2014. He has held numerous leadership positions in ACS divisions and the Cleveland local section.
Linda C. Brazdil retired from her rolls as Director of the Center for Science and Math Education and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Loyola University Chicago in 2019. She came to Loyola from Northwestern University where she was a Research Associate Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy and director of the Meaningful Science Consortium (MSC), working with Chicago public high schools.
Linda also has been Director of Prairie Crossing Charter School, a consultant to Project 2061, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at John Carroll University, a science education consultant, a research chemist at SOHIO/BP, and a high school chemistry teacher. Linda received a B.S. in chemistry from Notre Dame College of Ohio, cum laude and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. She holds 33 U.S. patents. She has received numerous awards including The Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Freshmen, the Cleveland Technical Societies Council Technical Achievement Award, the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York Award for Excellence in Catalysis, and the Joan P. Lambros Service Award from the Fluorine Chapter of Iota Sigma Pi. She was named the Outstanding Chemistry Alumna of Notre Dame College of Ohio and the National Honorary Member of Iota Sigma Pi. In 2015 she was named an American Chemical Society Fellow.
Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?
Jim: For me it was a little bit of both. My long career with SOHIO/BP/INEOS came to an end in 2016 with INEOS deciding to eliminate their research and development business unit. Retirement was certainly an option for me then. However, having decided I still had more I wanted to give to chemistry, I took a position at ADM as group research director. I then retired on my own terms in 2020.
Linda: When Jim took the position at ADM, it meant we only saw each other on weekends. We agreed that this would not be a long-term arrangement since we wanted to spend time together. This helped me choose retirement at the end of 2019 to begin focusing on building our new home and moving to North Carolina.
How was the transition from the working world to retirement?
Jim: Physically and psychologically the transition went well. Linda and I have been planning our retirement for a while and were excited about moving to a warm-weather locale and new home. COVID certainly has had an impact on the transition to retirement now that we are settled in our new location. It has delayed our immediate plans for international travel, but we have been fortunate to have remained safe and heathy during this time. The key for the transition was planning as much as we could but being flexible and resilient when the unexpected happens and plans need to change.
Linda: The transition was surprisingly easy. As Jim said, we had planned for a while, but I was surprised at how quickly I was able to switch from a structured schedule with lots of deadlines to a more relaxed schedule.
Looking back, what do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?
Jim: From a practical standpoint managing our health care coverage with Medicare was a learning experience. It can get complicated, so do a bit of research and planning before you reach 65. It’s always good to talk to someone who has gone through the process already.
So far, what has surprised you most about retirement?
Jim: Everyone talks about the amount of unstructured time you will have when you retire and how difficult it can be for some to manage. You really can’t know what it is like until it actually happens, and you have to make choices about spending your time. No one is going to tell you what to do (or at least fewer people will). One benefit of this is having the time and opportunity to invest in meeting new people and making new friendships.
Linda: I was surprised at how quickly my time fills up. While there is a lot of unstructured time in retirement, it is easy to find fun and challenging things to do.
What is a pastime you found in retirement?
Jim: I have had the opportunity to catch up on a lot of reading. I also have gotten back to playing chess, which I always loved and played regularly when I was young. It’s something new that connects me to my younger days. Linda and I do a lot of walking, biking, and hiking and have taken up playing pickleball with our community neighbors. We highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it.
Linda: I also have caught up on a lot of reading and have increased the time I have to swim each morning, something I have loved doing for a very long time. I have also become the chair of the amenities committee in our community. I have met a lot of people in this role, and it helps me use the management and organizational skills I learned while working to maintain and improve the facilities (fitness center, pools, etc.) in our community.
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?
Jim: Professionally, I would say make sure to spend the time and energy to build your networks. They will become vital to you in unexpected ways throughout your career and after. Remember too that ACS is a great vehicle for networking the chemistry profession.
Linda: I agree with everything Jim said. Building networks is critical. The benefits are great both during your career and when you retire. I encourage people to get involved in ACS. I was involved at both the local and national levels and this provided, and still provides, a lot of benefits.
What is your favorite part of retired life?
Jim: Being your own boss in the sense of being able to largely structure your time on your own terms and to set your own priorities for spending your time and energy.
Linda: Being able to spend time on things that interest me and that I enjoy. It is great to be able to focus on things I find important.
How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?
Jim: I keep in touch with colleagues I worked with and spend time mentoring and offering career and professional advice. I stay involved in ACS activities through the divisions I belong to. I also take advantage of my ACS membership and browse the table of contents of select journal and download articles of interest to my field to keep up with latest trends and developments. Also doing a bit of consulting to industry and academia.
Linda: I taught an online graduate class that I had helped design while I was at Loyola University Chicago. It was really fun to be part of the inaugural class since I had invested time and energy into helping design it before I retired. I also consult with past colleagues and mentor past colleagues and students when asked. I use my ACS membership to read C&E News, listen to talks, and keep up on journal articles.
What do you miss most about your old job?
Jim: I certainly miss the collaboration with colleagues on a daily basis. But I also miss the technical challenges and problem solving that comes with doing chemical research in industry.
Linda: I miss the challenges that came with chemical research and teaching. I also miss collaborating with others in meeting those challenges.
What’s the biggest challenge you have confronted to this point in your retirement?
Linda: Because we moved to a new location, we had to find new doctors, a dentist, auto mechanics, hair stylists, etc. We did a lot of research to help us find services, but it has paid off.
Your best advice for someone getting ready to retire?
Jim: Treat retirement planning the same way you did your career choices. Use the same planning and decision-making tools that worked for you during your career. You had a successful career so using the same approach will get you to a successful retirement.
Linda: Make a list of the things you want to do when you retire. Go back to it and think about this carefully. Knowing what things are most important to you when you retire will help you plan where you want to live and how you will spend your time. Just like in work, planning is critical for retirement.
What’s a travel destination you can’t wait to get back to?
Jim and Linda: Alaska, Iceland, and returning to Europe are on our near-term travel list.
What do you like most about where you are living in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?
Jim: Where we moved to in southeastern North Carolina is really paradise. But what would make it even better is a Giordano’s pizzeria. I miss the authentic Chicago style pizza we enjoyed when we lived in the Chicago area.
Linda: Southeastern North Carolina is fantastic! We live close enough to the beach to go there whenever we want but far enough away (and on high ground) to avoid flood damage from hurricanes. I am still looking for a real butcher; I miss the great service we got from the butchers we had in Cleveland and Chicago.
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.