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feature

November/December 2008
SpotLight

Alfred Webber led the alumni parade at Bates College earlier this year.

Be Glad of Life!

Alfred Webber, Busy as Usual, at 101

“Be glad of life! Because it gives you the chance to love and work, to play and to look up at the stars.”
—Henry Van Dyke (as seen in a framed print hanging in Alfred Webber’s home, Chadds Ford, Pa)

Alfred Webber, an ASTM International member since the mid-1940s, is 101 years old. His advanced age, however, is the least interesting aspect of Webber’s current life.

During an interview held outside his home in Chadds Ford, Pa., where he has lived for 57 years, Webber noted that the hummingbirds had left his yard for the season, perhaps headed for the Gulf of Mexico. It was a late summer morning and there were still several other varieties of birds gathered around the feeders Webber and his sons maintain ­— they’ve counted at least 13 different species that visit regularly.

Cultivating the avian population of his yard is just one of Webber’s hobbies. The cosmos fascinates Webber just as much as the birds, and with a home observatory in his backyard,

Webber has participated in the activities of the Delaware Astronomical Society for many years. Renowned American artist Andrew Wyeth, a neighbor and longtime friend of Webber’s, has used the observatory to study the moon in order to render it accurately in his paintings.
Webber also enjoys photography, especially in conjunction with his passion for micromounts, tiny mineral crystals that can only be seen with a stereomicroscope. He has collected more than 2,600 micromounts and has taken remarkable stereo photographs of many of them. He displays these and, for the last 19 years, has compared and traded specimens with other enthusiasts at an annual meeting in Canada.

Bates College, Webber’s alma mater, noted the significance of his age when he was invited to a reunion at the Lewiston, Maine, campus earlier this year. Webber, a 1928 graduate of Bates, was the oldest alumnus to ever return for a reunion. “That was a wonderful experience. I don’t believe you can appreciate how wonderful that was,” says Webber. “I went back to celebrate the 80th anniversary of my graduation, the first time in 140 years that had happened at Bates. It was a new experience for the college and a new experience for me, and naturally they made a lot of it.”

Webber, who was married to his late wife Margaret for more than 50 years, has four children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Alfred Webber’s work at ASTM began during his early years at DuPont. Charged with the task of making sure everyone at the company could communicate with each other, Webber turned to ASTM standards and he has been working with them ever since. A 1995 Award of Merit recipient, Webber’s ASTM experience includes extensive work in Committee D20 on Plastics, as well as work on E12 on Color and Appearance. Webber was a U.S. delegate to International Organization for Standardization TC 61 on Plastics for 16 years, and chair of that committee for six.

Webber served as president of the ASTM board of directors in 1962-1963, and was part of the real estate committee when ASTM acquired the Race Street property in Philadelphia for its headquarters in 1965. Looking back on all of his ASTM experience, Webber notes that what he has enjoyed most is working with fellow members and staff. “The people, the people. All great people,” says Webber.

The quote by Henry van Dyke that hangs on Al Webber’s wall gives his visitors something to contemplate, but Webber himself doesn’t need advice to “be glad of life.” He embodies it.