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Chapter 5 : Dick’s USPL Years

Chapter 5

Dick’s USPL Years

In 1972, Dick interviewed for and received a position with U.S. Precision Lens and thus began a career that would span more than 35 years.

USPL

Much of the information in this chapter comes from Marilyn Parlier, Dick’s friend who worked with him for many years and perhaps knew him in his professional capacity better than anyone else. I also have relied heavily on Roger Howe’s book, Doing Interesting Things With Interesting People In Interesting Places, the history of his years as the owner of U.S. Precision Lens (USPL).

Dick, Marilyn, et al

Much of the information in this chapter comes from Marilyn Parlier, Dick’s friend who worked with him for many years and perhaps knew him in his professional capacity better than anyone else. I also have relied heavily on Roger Howe’s book, Doing Interesting Things With Interesting People In Interesting Places, the history of his years as the owner of U.S. Precision Lens (USPL).

He needed new ideas – and he needed them fast. One of Dick’s astronomy friends, Wayne Garrett, who already worked for the company, suggested that Dick might have the skills necessary to bring things to the next level.

In September of 1972, Dick met with Roger and the two immediately hit it off. Dick asked for a substantial amount of money as his starting salary, more than most workers – enough that Roger remembered the exact amount years later. But Roger had realized that Dick had the ‘something’ that USPL needed.

Dick's sideburns (1982)

Money well spent: “… whenever a customer buys a plastic lens, its power, accuracy and finish have been generated by Dick or someone he trained.”

As the years became decades, Dick “… developed techniques for figuring and finishing aspheres that, as far as we know, were unique.”

[All these quotes come from Roger’s book]

About a year later Dick ‘just happened’ to be in the office at a time when most others were out to lunch and he took a call from a fellow named Henry Kloss – the same fellow who had started Acoustical Research, KLH and Advent. Henry needed a Schmidt corrector plate.

Christmas (1981)

A ‘No Problem’ kind of guy…

‘No problem,’ Dick said. It seems that Schmidt correctors were a thingee commonly used with telescopes and Dick, by this time an expert telescope maker, had experienced these items. The important point here – clearly made by Roger in his book – was that had anyone else answered the phone they would have had NO idea what a Schmidt corrector was. This serendipitous moment led to a major contract and to an entire area of cutting edge development in plastic optics.

At the same time, the company had begun development of lenses used in Polaroid cameras. From this work, they had created processes that managed to speed up bulk manufacturing without sacrificing quality.

But the Schmidt corrector created a problem. The Polaroid lens was a small unit, but the lens for a projection television was BIG. USPL had to find a way to make a big correction lens and make it cost effective.

No small goal!

Now, we do not know exactly how they did this – Roger simply says that this has “… never been disclosed to anyone not under USPL secrecy and non-compete agreements.”

And, no, Dick never talked….

Halloween | Staff negotiations (1991)

Dick & staff at Halloween… or perhaps
Dick negotiating staff salaries…

But we do know that Dick invented one of the two techniques that allowed them to make plastic lenses up to 8 inches in diameter and over an inch in thickness.

As the years passed Dick’s importance to the company continued. In 1988, then President Ronald Reagan visited USPL and Dick was selected as one of a small group designated to greet the President.

Dick with President Regan

Dick with President Reagan – always a special memory for Dick!

Dick continued to work for USPL long after Roger sold the company to Corning and only left after the last owners, 3M, decided to shut down the plant. When Dick left there were no more than 100 workers and within a year it was no more.

Dick’s professional legacy still resonates as the techniques that he developed continue to create products that help enhance the world’s well being.

Dick outside USPL (1988)

Dick outside USPL, 1988

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