Most of our 50,000 subscribers are designers of fluid power systems that go into original equipment or in-plant machines. We sometimes hear from or turn to readers as sources of articles, but much of our material comes from component and system manufacturers. Many of these manufacturers are members of the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA). One of the most tangible functions of NFPA is to develop and maintain standards for the manufacturing and implementation of fluid power components.

One of the primary goals of NFPA eluded it for most of its 50+ year history — establishing a formal partnership between the fluid power industry and academia. This long-standing desire to form an education-industry alliance became quite clear to me ten years ago when I began looking through hundreds of archived issues in my research for our 50th anniversary issue (which was published in March, 1998). Dozens of times our "Editor's Page" expounded on the need for formal cooperation between industry and academia. Other fields of technology were successful, so why not fluid power?

I'm sure this challenge plagued every NFPA director and governing board from the beginning. However, it wasn't until recently that it came to fruition — in the form of the Engineering Resource Center (ERC) for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power.*

Last year the National Science Foundation (NSF) entered into a $15 million, 5-yr contract to support the ERC, with NSF funding to be augmented by $3 million from universities and $3 million from industry. Work within the ERC is expected to have a profound impact on both hydraulics and pneumatics research and education in the U.S.

All this came to be while Linda Western served as executive director of NFPA. Linda would be the first to tell anyone that she did not accomplish this alone. And that's true. Being awarded such an important and prestigious contract required a lot of hard work by the NFPA staff and volunteers and workers from industry and academia. Still, most of Linda's predecessors over the last 50 years had similar opportunities, but it was under her watch when it happened.

Late last year, Linda announced that she'd be retiring during the first quarter of this year. By now she is retired, so she'll be able to focus her energies on her personal goals. I'm sure she'd up to the challenge and will have fun in the process.

* For more information, visit the NFPA website at www.nfpa.com, then click on the button on the ERC on the right, just under the menu bar.