Tribute to Professor Don Shiffler

Dr. and Professor Donald Albert Shiffler, Sr. passed away on Sunday, August 8, 2021, at the age of 84.  It was little wonder that he was so passionate to teach people about how “fibers and nonwovens” are made as he held a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, retired from DuPont de Nemours Dacron Research Laboratory as Research Fellow in 1996, and had a second career at NC State University where he joined the faculty as an adjunct Professor and was an Associate Director of The Nonwovens Institute for almost 21 years.

It was from these work platforms that Don focused his research on groundbreaking work in polymer science and fiber formation where he holds six patents.  Combining this with his love of family it was interesting that he named a critical fiber formation processing parameter the “Jill Ratio” after his daughter.  The Jill Ratio is still taught in training courses today as a guide to controlling throughput and spinning speed to produce the best quality fibers.

Beyond Don’s world-class technical insights, he also excelled in his effort to build the NWI organization.  Don is well known for the insights he provides to industry executives who take on the role of leading the NWI Executive Committee.  Before important committee and board meetings, you’d find Don coaching and preparing the Board Chair on key issues and opportunities.  There’s a long line of NWI Board Chairs who are very grateful for Don’s generous coaching and its productive impact.  Quite simply, Don helped others to succeed and was a proactive coach with executives, NWI, and Ph.D. students.  Don was well known for taking time to listen to each Ph.D. student practice presenting their work and providing constructive feedback before each Industrial Advisory Board meeting.

And everyone who knew Don was fortunate to experience and enjoy his humor and musical talent.  He was a noted performer, most especially of early medieval music, and always carried a penny whistle.  As the facilitator of The Nonwovens Institute Industrial Advisory Board Meetings Don would manage the agenda and introduce speakers.  His trademark approach to reminding people that a break was ending was to play his “penny whistle”.  Everyone knew this provided an opportunity to appreciate Don’s musical talent and that it meant the meeting would begin again and so they returned to their seats with a smile on their face.  For any stragglers, Don reminded them they would be served his trademark “anchovy and Limburger sandwich” if they did not return now.

The Nonwovens Institute community offers its heartfelt condolences to Don’s family and friends and cherishes our memories with Don.  Don’s legacy to the industry lives on through his teachings, his students, and the Nonwovens Institute.