Seymour Padnos died at his home in Holland, Michigan, at the age of 99 July 9. At the time of his death, he was chair emeritus of Padnos, a scrap recycling company headquartered in Holland with multiple locations in Michigan and one in Indiana.
From a young age, Seymour Padnos worked in his parent’s recycling business, which today is named Padnos. He went on to serve the company as CEO and later as chairman for more than 60 years. Serving as chair emeritus until his death, he held the Padnos company near to his heart and remained engaged with the fine details to the very end, according to an announcement about his death issued by the company. Often when he was asked what kept him going, he would simply respond with his soft-spoken voice, “The company.”
For many years during this tenure at Padnos, he served as chairman of various national committees and was a board member of the Institute of Scrap Iron & Steel, the predecessor of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington. Along with his brother Stuart Padnos, Seymour Padnos expanded the company, which has gone on to welcome the third and now a fourth generation of family members to the business.
“Seymour Padnos was a man of vision and saw possibility where others saw obstacles,” the announcement states. “He led the effort to establish Holland as a commercial shipping harbor back in the 1940s, sought to expand the company’s operations to work with European and Asian customers during the 1960s and 70s and initiated a national competition focused on product design for recyclability long before the concept was popular.”
Seymour Padnos received many honors and awards during his lifetime, including a Lifetime Achievement award from ISRI in 2014. He was named to the Lake Michigan Sail Race Federation and to the West Michigan Business halls of fame and was especially proud that his Distinguished Eagle Scout award was presented to him by longtime friend President Gerald R. Ford. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was honored with the Dixy Lee Ray Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, recognizing significant achievements and contributions in the field of environmental protection.
Born to immigrant parents and growing up during the depression, Seymour Padnos understood the importance of giving back and was an active philanthropist, the announcement states. As early as the 1950s, he and his brother established the Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation to honor their parents by giving back to the community. With his wife, he established the Esther and Seymour Padnos Foundation and was an early supporter of local institutions of higher education—leading to their donation to create the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and the Padnos Hall of Science at GVSU. Seymour Padnos served as a board member or trustee for many nonprofit organizations during his life.
Seymour Padnos’ impacts will be felt for generations in the community and in the recycling industry, the company says.