Here’s a little FTA inside baseball: The employees at each FTA member company are categorized by their employer’s type of business. There are nine primary categories and Jean Engelke has had almost every one of them.
She has gone from teaching printing and paper science, to roles at two printers, to time at a manufacturer and then a premedia service provider. Her extensive CV of FTA work means she is practically an honorary staff member of the Association. For all four years since her retirement, she has carried a personal “individual” membership.
But there is one category of member—far from “primary,” as only 58 of the tens of thousands of people in FTA’s membership database belong to it—that, until now, Jean has not been a part of. The FTA Hall of Fame, that most hallowed of groups, seems only fitting for someone who has spent decades in every area of the flexographic industry, bringing qualities of strong leadership, level-headed focus and unwavering devotion.
“Whether in the role of FORUM chair, Board chair, Committee chair or just a true friend, Jean has always been there to make sense of things when sensibility gets tossed aside,” says FTA Director of Education Joe Tuccitto.
And then, there were 59, as Jean Engelke is the newest member of the FTA Hall of Fame.
Jean grew up in St. Joseph, MI. Her younger brother, Mike Rosinski, recalls his sister’s early interest in graphic arts that, with a father who was a mechanical engineer, “got more technical” in college.
In 1984, Jean received an associate of arts and science in graphic design from Southwestern Michigan College. She later transferred to Western Michigan University, where she went on to earn a trio of degrees: a Bachelor of Science in printing management in 1991, a Master of Business Administration in business in 1993 and a Master of Science in industrial engineering management in 1996.
“Jean loved the technology piece and the R&D side of things. She was one of the more active students outside of the day-to-day and classes,” recalls John Serafano, Jean’s former teacher at Western Michigan University and the then-director of its Printing Pilot Plant. He adds that Jean was among the first Western Michigan University students to earn a master’s from the school.
Working at the Plant, Jean performed testing for paper companies. Her research and laboratory work yielded several published papers—written alone and co-authored with Serafano—including “Water-Based Gravure Ink, Water Quality and Electro-Static Assist,” “The Interaction of Uncoated Paper Chemistry and Gravure Ink” and “The Role of Ink and Paper Chemistry in Water-Based Publication Gravure.”
“We would take students on tours of the South in the summer, to go visit different companies. You could take most students into a manufacturing operation and they’d roll their eyes. They didn’t see the inner workings and understand what it meant to have all the bits and pieces work together,” he remembers. “Jean always seemed curious about that stuff and I thought that was really important. She had a real knack for it and really wanted that knowledge and to be part of the system.”
Western Michigan University would be the site of two significant beginnings in Jean’s life. On the professional side, the school is where her career began. Following her time as a graduate student teacher, she graduated and became a teacher in the school’s paper and printing department, instructing future flexographers on printing and paper science.
On the personal side, the school is where she met her husband, Eric. While a teacher, Jean had become friends with Eric’s sister. “I was laying on my couch, she said, ‘Hi,’ and that was that,” he says of their first encounter.
As she left the world of academia, Jean carried her educator mindset from Western Michigan University into the business world. Her first position, in 1996, was as marketing manager for Appleton Papers in Appleton, WI. Shortly after the turn of the century, in 2003, she joined Alcan Packaging of Appleton, WI as its print services leader.
While Jean was working at Alcan Packaging, her brother was in the early part of what has become a 31-year career at Cryovac (now part of Sealed Air). “There was a good period of overlap there!” he says of their time employed by rival printers. Back then, avoiding talking shop was not a problem. Now, he doesn’t hesitate to pick his sister’s brain, and she is always willing to lend an ear.
“I know enough about printing to be dangerous, but sometimes I talk to Jean to have her explain the technical stuff to me,” says Rosinski, whose background in packaging is supplemented by a master’s in food science. “We have our technical people, but it helps to have someone else’s perspective.”
In 2010, Jean crossed the printer/supplier line to become the global flexographic product marketing manager at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY. With the new role, she and Eric relocated to the upstate New York town and endured its harsh winters for four years, before moving to Mooresville, NC.
“In the sense of a professional organization, during her initial work with Kodak, we had opportunities to converse in a technical way, to look at what was happening in the worlds of print and flexography,” says Dr. Sam Ingram, professor emeritus at Clemson University. “She was very engaging and passionate about her efforts to look toward continuously improving the process.”
In 2015, she joined RR Donnelley as business development manager – packaging solutions group. Two years later, she became the director of business development – packaging. And on a warm day in June 2018—after a career that spanned more than two decades and saw Jean bring her talents to nearly every corner of the flexographic industry—she made the most coveted job change of all, and retired.