2009 Recipient, Ronald Lee Szapacs

Ronald Lee Szapacs

Maintenance Specialist, Air Products & Chemicals

Ron Szapacs was the youngest of three children, following brother Joe and sister Jan. Born in 1945. Ron grew up in the small town of Slatington, Pa. As a child, he was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, played football, ran track and was a wrestler. Ron’s big love, however, was anything mechanical – especially racing. At 10 years old, he was the crew for his older brother’s Soap Box derby race car. In his teens, Ron built his own go-kart to race.

Ron’s first job in the transportation industry was with bulk hauler Matlack. He started in the rebuild shop and eventually ran the largest shop in the Matlack system. During Ron’s 12 years at Matlack, he married his longtime sweetheart, Lois. They will be celebrating their 39th anniversary this year. In June 1978, Ron joined Air Products & Chemicals and helped design and lay out more than 20 vehicle maintenance shops nationwide for the growing company. His primary duties are power vehicles, including spec’ing, maintenance policies and procedures, fuel economy programs and component testing and evaluation. Ron also works with the international Air Products fleet in Europe, Asia and South America as an advisor.

Ron is involved in SKILLS USA, a group that promotes youth education in technical schools. He has been the heavy-duty diesel coordinator of the Pennsylvania District 11 skills competition for more than 25 years and a technical advisor for the national Skills USA committee for 18 years. Ron was instrumental in starting TMC’s S. 15 specialty vehicle study group and served as its first vice chairman. Later Ron joined the S.3 engine study group, for which he has served as vice chairman and chairman. Ron currently is a TMC director at large and is a recipient of the organization’s prestigious Silver Spark Plug Award. He has been a member of ATA’s Technical Advisory Group for 10 years and has served as its chairman. He also received a Member Service Award for 20 years of service to SAE.

The most fun of Ron’s career was the 18 years he spent working as a part-time engine tuner on various NASCAR race teams. He also worked the pits, fueling and jacking cars, cleaning windshields – even changing tires occasionally. The high point was in 1988 when his team won the Daytona 500 with Bobby Allison driving. Ron is still involved in racing, specifically in the NASCAR Asphalt Modified circuit. He builds the engines while his son is chassis engineer and driver.

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Ron and Lois have two children, Rebecca, and Andrew. Becky is a labor scheduling manager for Disney in Orlando while Andy is an engineer for Mack/Volvo.