Born and bred in New York City, I attended and graduated the High School of Music and Art and trained at the Juilliard School of Music forming my own 18 piece orchestra.
I graduated with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering in 1954. Specialised in plastics becoming President of the Society of Plastic Engineers of Delaware Valley, Editor of the The Alembic (the American Chemical Journal), Technical Director of two plastics companies in New York and Hong Kong, held two patents and was an Adjunct Professor at three universities in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
As a chemical engineer on a business trip, I was in a plane crash in Rochester New York in 1963. A result of which I suffered 45% full thickness burns losing the top of my head, my nose, an eye, an ear, a thumb and a few fingers. Hospitalised for 5 years, I ‘died’ twice and accumulated a medical file one foot thick.
Upon discharge, I discovered there was no support organisation for anyone burned and disfigured so I decided to establish a world wide organisation called The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. I named it after the beautiful Egyptian mythological bird who ignites it’s nest, is consumed in the flames, only to rise again ‘more beautiful than before’.
Delwyn and Awards
In 1988 we held the first World Burn Congress and these have been held every year since. Burn survivors now come to the United States annually from all over the world to these congresses and it has to be one the most humbling and awe-inspiring events held on the planet.
It was at the very first congress that Delwyn and I met, fell in love and after a five year long-distance courtship, we married. We both derive great pleasure and satisfaction from having the opportunity to work together to help burn survivors which has now become our combined lifetime passion.
I am fortunate enough to have been the recipient of many awards, honours and prizes including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Burn Association and have been an invited guest speaker at numerous international conferences.
I have co-authored several books and written two. The latest one being “The Beauty of Disfigurement” which has recently been translated into Japanese.
My philosophy about being disfigured is that looking very different has many advantages. You don’t have to dye and spike your hair, or pierce and tattoo your body to stand out in the crowd. People notice and remember you just as you are and you will garner just as much attention - and sometimes even more! It is totally up to YOU whether you use the attention positively or negatively, so make the most of it!