SPE Mold Technologies Division Honors Two Women in Moldmaking at Amerimold

Historic honors includes the first female moldmaker of the year and only the fourth woman mold designer of the year.


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It is important to put a spotlight on exciting things happening in our industry, and most of the time the excitement revolves around new technologies or companies expanding their products and services and building new facilities. It’s all great stuff, but one of the best and most enjoyable things to spotlight is when individuals in moldmaking are honored. During Amerimold, the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Mold Technologies Division took its annual awards for moldmaker and mold designer of the year to the next level when it honored two very deserving women: Francine Petrucci of B A Die Mold Inc. (Aurora, Illinois) and Brenda Clark of Hasco America (Fletcher, North Carolina) respectively.

I asked these women, each of whom is highly respected in the industry, how they reacted when they got the news. “I was speechless, frankly… then really tickled!” Petrucci, who was named Moldmaker of the Year, says. In fact, she is the first woman moldmaker to receive this honor from the SPE, which has been bestowing it since 1983. “Wow, what can I say? So many incredible mold manufacturing professionals in our little part of the plastics world that it’s really a great honor. I feel humbled by the award and for being the first female.”

Brenda Clark was named Mold Designer of the Year and says “I am very honored and it was a nice surprise to have been nominated and accepted, especially during this increase in industry activity and with so many great designers out there now working again.” She is one of only four women to receive this honor since it was established in 1992. Donna Koebel of Prestige Mold Inc. was the first woman named Mold Designer of the Year in 2003, followed by Barbara Arnold-Feret of Parts Ltd. (currently HP) in 2012 and Renee Nehls of Sussex IM in 2017.

It was Nehls, as chair of the SPE Mold Technologies Division, presented the awards to Petrucci and Clark at Amerimold in Chicago last week.

“Francine is president and co-owner of B A Die Mold in Aurora, Illinois,” Nehls said during the presentation. “She graduated cum laude from Northern Illinois University School of Engineering and is well-respected within the field of mold making. She is a selfless promoter of the trade to both female and male high school students, and to educators and parents, and has met with Illinois and federal legislators to discuss the importance of rebuilding American manufacturing. Francine has been an active board member of the Chicago AMBA, including holding the role of president for four years. She established the first Education Committee for the Chicago AMBA and was presented with the Illinois Technology and Manufacturing Association’s Rose Mottl Leadership in Manufacturing Award.”

Upon introducing Clark, Nehls said, “Brenda is the engineering manager at Hasco America. She is a graduate of Machine Design in Mechanical Technology from Hartford State Technical College. Brenda has comprehensive experience in mold design, mold building and processing, and she is an active board member of the Mold Technologies Division including serving a term as Division Chair. She has also worked with the AMBA and Plastics (formerly SPI) to help spread awareness about plastics everywhere. She has written and presented specialized technical articles on mold design throughout the United States.”

Petrucci and Clark each received plaques and a $500 check to be donated in their names to the trade related program of their choosing. Petrucci has chosen to give her $500 to Oswego High School’s Metals and Manufacturing Program. “They will have 200 students in their program next year! This school is close to my shop and I am honored to give them the grant,” she says. Clark’s grant money will benefit Blue Ridge Technical College to support its injection molding cell and mold design programs specifically.

“My son just said that the first woman will soon be sent to the moon and that is how I feel about this accomplishment!” Clark says. “When I first started out, I realized it was a male dominated field and I never dreamed that I could win such an award. The industry has evolved and realizes that all are capable of being great mold designers and mold builders regardless of their sex. I'm proud to be in the plastics industry and working with so many open-minded colleagues. It is more what knowledge you have to offer and not your gender.”

Petrucci agrees, saying, “I think the obvious message is that mold manufacturing is not just for the guys. While I never felt that intimidation – perhaps some young women do. Maybe they will see two gals winning these awards and think to themselves, ‘I can do this too!’ I hope there are many more women who will follow in our footsteps!”

“This is truly an historic occasion,” Nehls says. “Never before have we had a woman named Moldmaker of the Year; and to have women receiving both awards is particularly momentous. It shows that women are becoming a force in the industry.”

Congratulations, Francine and Brenda!