If it’s possible to sum up Ron Widup with a single word, it might be: Driven.
Widup, who is Senior Advisor, Technical Services, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Shermco Industries, is the 2020 recipient of NETA’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
The 2020 NETA Outstanding Achievement Award recipient holds a passion for the industry, and his participation in standards development for NFPA, and the IEEE makes him one of its most dedicated contributors. At the same time, Widup’s contributions to NETA are far-reaching, including the Standards Review Council, NAMO Committee, Conference Committee, Technical Representation Steering Committee, Association Development Committee, Technical Exam Committee, and Member Review Committee.
“Ron is very focused on any project he takes on. He has a vast knowledge that he draws on and a settled personality that allows him to perform many tasks that would not normally be possible,” says Jim White, Vice President of Training Services at Shermco Industries. “No doubt, working long hours helps, too. I often receive emails from him at 2:00 AM, so I don’t know when he sleeps. He has always been very committed to the Shermco way.”
It will come as no surprise to those who know him that Widup sees the award as a testament to the electrical testing community. “If we can all focus on making things better for others, it leads to betterment for everyone — and everyone includes you,” he says.
His dedication to safety comes from personal experience. In 1984, Widup was severely injured while working on an automatic transfer switch — it exploded in an arc flash in front of him. He spent over a week in the hospital and then another month recovering at home. After that, safety became the focus of his career.
Widup’s eye for the greater good and drive to improve the industry at large have long been defining features. Calvin Earp, Shermco’s Senior Director of Operations MSD, has worked with Widup in some capacity since 1990. Earp says Widup has always been intense but calm, intuitive, generous, and capable of recognizing fine distinctions.
“When I started at Shermco in 1990, we had approximately 45 employees; today we have more than 1,200, and I attribute most of that success and growth to Ron’s keen vision and generosity,” Earp says. “Simon Sinek said, ‘Great leaders must have two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate that vision clearly.’ Ron possesses both of those qualities.”
Widup’s vision includes a world safe from electrical failures, but more important, safe for the people working on those frontlines.
“He has a real concern for safety and the workers and has always been up front about it,” White says. “He has been a mentor and a friend, first getting me on the 70E Committee to represent NETA, then as co-author of the NETA and the 70E column in NETA World. He always has good input and has involved me in numerous projects involving electrical safety programs or investigating incidents.”
Widup acknowledges the successes he’s enjoyed and the advancements he’s championed are in no small part a result of the people who inspired and mentored him during his career.
“You should always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. But when I look back and think about it, the people who really made a difference for me all fit the same criteria — they took a chance on me,” Widup says. “So, whether it was Bill Coleman, the plant engineer at Chaparral Steel who trusted me with his million-dollar transformer testing, or Pete Sherman, Shermco’s founder who let me try new things with the company, or the many others throughout my career — they all had trust in me. Trust is important, and you should covet it and work hard to keep it, regardless of the curve balls life throws you.”
Currently serving as a member of NETA’s Board of Directors, Widup has held various Association leadership positions since 1998, including the role of President more than once. In addition to essentially using the Association as his post-tech-school learning institution, Widup credits NETA with many of his own successes.
“The rewards of being involved with NETA include networking, industry involvement, and enhanced knowledge of our industry,” Widup says. “When our members, industry partners, and end users fully participate, they will find NETA has a positive role in their career, both professionally and personally.” Widup encourages people to take stock of their situations and themselves to create a better community and industry.
“Always step back and think about tomorrow. We often live in the moment, dealing with the day-to-day issues — but that’s only today,” Widup says. “Ask yourself what it is about today that will shape what we do tomorrow. It’s not always intuitive, and you have to consciously think about it, but if you take the time to do that, take reasonable risks, and think about what you don’t exactly know, you generally come out OK. And if it doesn’t work out, blame it on a dead guy. Works every time.”