Witnessing 40 years of change at Natick
March 29, 2012
NATICK, Mass. (March 29, 2012) -- Chris Pentheny will never forget Valentine's Day, 1972. On that Monday, he started a job at a place where he would spend the next 40 years. It must have been love at first sight.
The then 24-year-old Pentheny, a graduate of Lowell (Mass.) Technological Institute, began work as a laboratory technician at what came to be known as the Natick Soldier Systems Center. On March 30, he will finally leave for retirement.
"At that time, I never planned I'd spend a career here," said Pentheny, "but as it turned out, it was just one thing led to another. It was a very interesting 40 years here, which has gone by so very fast."
When Pentheny got to Natick, President Nixon was in the White House and the Vietnam War had yet to end. He departs under President Obama with the nation's military fighting in Afghanistan. Pentheny has seen a great deal unfold in the intervening years.
"I've been here through eight presidents," said Pentheny, "and I've spent my entire career in Building 4."
For most of his four decades at Natick, Pentheny has worked as a textile technologist in the clothing and textiles directorate. He finishes with Program Manager-Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, but he has worked with pretty much everybody on just about everything.
"Over my career, there (have) been so many changes," said Pentheny, a Hopkinton, Mass., native who has bachelor's and master's degrees from Lowell. "I've worked on so many different project areas. Every time I turned around, it was a new and interesting adventure. I just enjoyed it the whole time.
"Trying to learn the new technologies and rolling your sleeves up and getting into it (were) the best part of it. I really enjoyed the science part of it."
Pentheny recalled that he was a member of the Natick team that originally evaluated GORE-TEX. He recently found a sample of it as he cleaned out his office in anticipation of his last day.
"I would say that product finally came about in the first generation of the extended cold-weather clothing system," Pentheny said. "That's really when the GORE-TEX became first adopted by the military."
No matter what he worked on, Pentheny always enjoyed the company.
"The one thing I liked most is the people I've met at Natick," Pentheny said. "Everybody's been wonderful."
Pentheny's career spanned two-thirds of the 58 years Natick has existed. The installation has changed dramatically and its reputation has grown during Pentheny's time here.
"I think the organization is well known and recognized throughout the industry, at least the textile industry," Pentheny said. "Knowing that, and having been part of that, makes me very proud."
Pentheny isn't quite sure what path he will follow in retirement.
"This is another change," said Pentheny, "and another new adventure."