Retiree Spotlight

Meet Harvey Myers

Harvey Myers and his wife, Delores, at a kibbutz in Israel where they don the traditional dress for Jews living in a kibbutz. They learned to bake bread after separating the wheat from the chaff, grinding wheat to make flour and then baking the bread on a heated field stone.

Harvey Myers is one Pfizer retiree who truly exemplifies the saying “there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.” Throughout his nearly 30-year career, he worked hand-in-hand with colleagues to advance science and benefit the company. Now in his retirement, he works hand-in-hand with others to make his community a better place.

Harvey’s career with Pfizer began on July 1, 1976, when he joined The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as a Research Scientist I, Fine Chemical Analytical Methods. He enjoyed working in the lab and was eventually promoted to Research Scientist II, and then Research Scientist III. In these roles, he functioned as an analytical chemist in process research and worked on a team with a synthetic chemist, an organic chemist and a chemical engineer to improve quality and efficiencies of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).

“Essentially, we were trying to reduce the costs of the products we had on the market,” Harvey explained. “During my time ‘at the bench’ in the lab, one of the things I am most proud of is my work on developing High Performance Liquid Chromatography and Gas Chromatography Assays. To put it simply, these assays allowed us to separate impurities from the major component of interest and to quantify them. This told us how pure the products were and what we needed to do to make a better quality API, which in turn produced a better quality final product.”

Harvey’s work with the team in the lab was of particular importance as he was working on neomycin and spectinomycin, two broad spectrum antibiotics that were widely used and key in the company’s product portfolio at that time. Two of the High Performance Liquid Chromatography assays he had a hand in developing reduced the assay test time from three days to just 30 minutes. This was viewed as such a significant step forward that Harvey’s work was published in the Journal of Chromatography.

In 1983, Harvey was promoted to Group Manager of the Analytical Testing Laboratory, which was then part of the Chemical Division. In this position, Harvey’s role at the company officially shifted from team member to team leader. He was charged with running the lab and was part of the management team that implemented Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) into the daily operations of the Analytical Testing Laboratory.

“It was an exciting time to be a scientist leading a team in the lab. We were on the cutting edge of technology,” Harvey recalled with a hint of pride in his voice. “Working with the IT team to integrate LIMS into our daily processes was very rewarding. Once we were up and running, we realized great efficiencies in terms of reporting. We went from having to send test results to the production managers through inter-office mail – which could take a few hours to an entire day – to being able to instantaneously report our findings via network e-mail. This made the lab more productive than ever before.”

Harvey went on to serve as Associate Director, Analytical Testing Laboratory and Information Systems; Director, Quality Control Services; and then Director, Quality Operation Support Services. At the time of his retirement in April of 2005, Harvey was working as Director, PGM Franklin Quality Operations, at the company’s plant in Franklin, Ohio. It’s a role he took on because the company needed him and, in the true spirit of teamwork, Harvey stepped up to the plate.

“The director of quality left the plant in Franklin, Ohio, where we produced Heparin – an important anticoagulant – and the position needed to be filled on a temporary basis while they searched for a permanent replacement. I was notified of the problem on a Friday and by Tuesday I was in Franklin being brought up to speed,” Harvey recalled.

Not wanting to relocate so late in his career, Harvey commuted to Franklin from Kalamazoo for 10 months. “There were major things that needed to be done in the Franklin plant in order for the company to move forward there, but I had a great time and feel like I made a major difference,” he said. “I led a team of managers from four groups – validation, regulatory, quality control and quality assurance. In many ways it reminded me of my earliest days with the company. Working in such close collaboration with many brilliant minds was always what I found most enjoyable.”

Harvey added that he likes to think of himself as the last member of the team that was needed to get all of the outstanding validation and compliance projects at the Franklin plant done. “They had all of the pieces in place and just needed one additional leadership team member. We all worked very well together to get a lot of critical work done in a very short period of time.”

Once he realized success in Franklin, Harvey knew it was time to retire. “I feel like I truly went out on a high note. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the company – working on interesting projects with leading-edge technology was very fulfilling, and collaborating with my fellow scientists was certainly a highlight for me. But after nearly 30 years of working, and many years of intense schooling prior to that, I decided it was time for a little ‘me time’,” Harvey says with a laugh.

Harvey’s idea of ‘me time’ is anything but typical. Just as he was a team member and leader for the betterment of the company in his career, in his retirement he is working with others in the community to make his slice of the world a better place. He is the chairman and a founding member of a youth tutoring program called “Community Advocates for Parents and Students” (CAPS).  

The goal of CAPS is to inspire local school children – grades 1 thought 12 – living in subsidized housing to be passionate about their education and pursue higher goals. In addition to providing tutoring for the students three days a week, CAPS also sponsors field trips and other events to bolster the children’s spirits and enhance their education. The program has been a great success and Harvey was recently named Humanitarian of the Year by the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP for his work with the organization.

But Harvey’s volunteer work doesn’t stop with CAPS. Three days a week he works as a master gardener at the Humphrey Gardens; the food grown there is supplied to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan to help feed the needy. Twice a month, Harvey serves as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross blood shuttle where he helps transport blood from the blood bank to hospitals in the area and transports veterans to their medical appointments at the VA hospital. In addition, he is actively involved with the nonprofit Ujima Enterprises group, which works with African American students, and is the Board President of the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes food-pantry network. He also serves as secretary of the Kalamazoo Metropolitan Branch of the NAACP.

In addition to doing so much good in the community, Harvey has managed to find time for good old-fashioned fun in his retirement – travel and spending quality time with his wife, Delores, is at the top of the list. He said, “Since my retirement, we’ve visited Rome and then sailed back to the United States; we went to Australia and swam over the Great Barrier Reef and then toured the Fijian islands; we went to China and walked the Great Wall; and we recently returned from the trip of a lifetime to the Holy land (Israel, Jordan, and UAE).”

Harvey and his wife are currently planning their next big trip – either to the Ancient Pyramids of Egypt or the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu – that is, in between all of Harvey’s volunteer work and the ballroom dance lessons he takes with his wife.

“Ballroom dancing was my wife’s idea, even before my retirement,” said Harvey, “To be honest, I didn’t want to do it at first but once we started I caught the bug! We’ve been doing it for many years now. It’s very enjoyable to share the experience of dancing with my wife, but it’s also great exercise – both for the body and the mind. It keeps me sharp!”

That’s important when you’re as busy as Harvey. To stay in touch with his former Pfizer colleagues, he also plays racquetball and bowls with them during the spring and fall. But as busy as he is, said Harvey, “I am loving every minute of retirement – I’m having the time of my life. Being able to give back to the community while having this much fun is just icing on the cake.”

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