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The Power of Paper: Outagamie County Impact

Chemical engineer and papermaker Harry Spiegelberg ’59 uses one of the most basic — but vital — products to get kids excited about science.

July 22, 2016
Harry Spiegelberg ’59

When school buses packed with field-tripping grade schoolers rumble up to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame and the Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Harry Spiegelberg ’59 feels a special satisfaction.

There, in the refurbished former Kimberly-Clark Atlas Mill on the banks of the Fox River, Spiegelberg hopes the experience will spark an interest in science ­— like the one that led him to get a UW–Madison chemical engineering degree.

The hall of fame recognizes paper-industry leaders, and the discovery center allows visitors to explore the world of paper through exhibits, activities, and a chance to make their own.

“We get 10,000 visitors a year, many of them students,” says Spiegelberg. “Some have decided to go on to get scientific degrees, helping to fill a need in our country and in the paper industry.”

The center also runs a summer science program for kids aged seven to 12 and has developed programs for the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts.

I liked the idea of learning something new.

“We’ve helped them learn what science and engineering are all about,” Spiegelberg says.

Spiegelberg grew up on a Winnebago County dairy farm and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. Then he built a career at Kimberly-Clark — one that saw him rise from the pulp engineering department to three separate vice presidencies at the papermaker.

“I liked the idea of learning something new,” Spiegelberg says. “Because it was applied research, you could see discoveries come to life in the marketplace.”

During his time at Kimberly-Clark, Spiegelberg made recruiting recent UW–Madison grads a primary focus. And, to this day, the company remains a major employer of Badgers.

A couple of years before his 1996 retirement, he became a founding member of the hall of fame and has served as its chair for 10 years.

“Many people have called it the jewel of the Fox River,” he says. “It’s a great place to learn.” And Spiegelberg, a proud UW–Madison graduate, knows a thing or two about great places to learn.

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