by Leslie Miller
– I fondly remember Friday afternoons at the NFPA offices in 1998 – only a few of us around and as the newest employee I anxiously awaited answering the phone. The first time Mr. Maha called, I tried to direct him to someone else (as I did with all calls because I had no idea what I was doing.) I had no idea who Otto Maha was and he certainly didn’t know me, but it didn’t matter. Otto wanted to talk about NFPA. Otto wanted to talk about fluid power. Otto wanted to talk. He complained that the nurses who helped him dial, didn’t believe he knew people at this number, so when he handed the phone to a nurse for confirmation, I said, “It’s OK, I’ll talk for awhile.”
“Awhile” turned into more than half an hour. And surprisingly, I enjoyed every minute. One call became several–always on Friday afternoons. It was after Mr. Maha’s passing in 1999, followed by the announcements of his unbelievably generous bequests to promote fluid power technology, that I realized I should have made notes during those conversations. Mr. Maha was funny, sincere, and a bit on the curmudgeonly side (at the age of 91 he earned the right to be outspoken.) He was proud of his age—not of the 19 patents, not the trips around the world working on ISO acceptance of fluid power standards, not on helping the War Department in 1944 by developing a recoil mechanism for the Howitzer, not that he was Vice President of Global Affairs at Parker Hannifin Corporation. No, Mr. Maha was proud to have reached 91 years of age.
I’m reminiscing about Mr. Maha now because with popular culture propping up the Don Draper—Mad Men character as the archetype of the 1960’s, I’m concerned that the brilliant, hardworking engineers and scientists of that era will be shoved aside. Without people like Otto Maha the world would not be the same.
So, thank you Mr. Maha for funding multimillion dollar endowments that created impressive, state-of-the-art fluid power facilities at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Purdue University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, where each year new students will find the sense of purpose and accomplishment that you did.
Call anytime Otto.
To learn more about the future of fluid power, current research, and development needs of the fluid power industry, click here.