Measuring Up
by Tom Pearson

SQ and the metrology community lost a powerful champion and a wonderful friend with the passing of Philip G. Stein. For the past five years, Phil has entertained, enlightened and challenged us with his bimonthly “Measure for Measure” column.

I feel honored to have been with Phil in the Measurement Quality Division (MQD) booth at the Annual Quality Congress (AQC) in 1999 when then Quality Progress editor Miles Maguire stopped by to ask if we could recommend some additional technical articles and authors for the magazine. As was typical, I recommended Phil and he recommended me. I wrote “Measurements for the Knowledge Revolution” for the September 1999 issue with lots of help and support from Phil, and he began his “Measure for Measure” column that same month. But that was hardly the beginning.

I met Phil more than 30 years ago while we were each teaching a section of the popular “Calibrations and Standards Laboratory Practices” course at George Washington Univer-sity. Later, after Phil left RCA’s Sarnoff Labs and became an independent consultant, I hired him to work with my company from time to time. Through the years, we designed systems together, presented together at AQC and MQD conferences, wrote books and articles together and, best of all, were friends.

I am proud to say Phil Stein was my best friend, but that does not make me unique. Phil had friends everywhere. He knew everyone and was quick to network new friends together whenever an opportunity arose. “Hi, I’m a friend of Phil Stein, and he asked me to contact you,” may be the most used sentence in ASQ history.

Today, measure is the second step in the define, measure, analyze, improve, control process, and measurement uncertainty is a major issue in all compliance efforts,1 but Phil was a true measurement scientist long before the current trends developed. Phil could answer almost any measurement question from first physical principles to best practices to complex systems issues. The most frequent response given by other people to every measurement question seemed to be, “You should ask Phil Stein.”

Interestingly, this same technique also worked for questions about the best local restaurant, bottle of wine, stereo system, global positioning system and book or reference on most topics. There seemed to be no end to Phil’s knowledge or his ability to share that knowledge effectively. He had a soaring intellect with a great balance of wisdom, innovation, intuition and humor. He loved a good pun, joke or cartoon. When he told people to read a particular book or article, they listened and read.

Phil Stein set a new standard for service commitment to his science and ASQ. His passing left a void in the Phil Stein information network that no individual can fill. So what do we do now that we can no longer ask Phil? We can start by rereading his “Measure for Measure” columns from the last five years2 and by reading his contributions in the Certified Calibration Technician (CCT) Primer.3 Most of all, we can remember Phil loved his family, friends and profession, and we can celebrate his wonderful legacy by striving to measure up to the new standard of service he set for us.

I asked a few of Phil’s friends and associates to share their favorite remembrances for this article. Their response was overwhelming, and I could not include them all, so I decided to print some representative comments along with a eulogy by Frank Voehl. Thanks to all who responded and helped celebrate the life of our friend, Phil Stein.

Gene Barker: What impressed me most about Phil was his willingness to share his knowledge with others. Whenever I asked for his help or opinion, he was quick to respond in an enthusiastic way. He had the unique ability to combine his knowledge of the technology (of which he had an unlimited amount) with the practical application to solve problems. His ability to think outside the box, coupled with his vision of what should be, enabled him to stay ahead of his peers.

When he saw an opportunity for improvement, he seized the moment. He was always ready to take on a new task and could always be depended upon to complete the assignment and provide an enlightened product. He was also a humble individual who was always more concerned about the result than who got the credit, and he was quick to acknowledge others. If told to pick two words to describe Phil, I would choose “quality professional.”

Norm Belecki: Phil was one of the most intellectually stimulating people I have ever known. His range of interests was broad, and our conversations ranged from science, technology, statistics, politics and world affairs to food, wine, religion and professional and societal concerns. I took great pleasure in my meetings with Phil.

Paul Blixt: When I think of Phil, I will always remember his dedication to ASQ. He led by example. He gave the board (and me) great insight. He gave so much to something he believed in. His dedication by example was an inspiration to many.

If you wanted to talk to Phil at AQC, all you had to do was swing by the MQD booth. “Odds are” (pun intended, as he was also a statistician) Phil would be there faithfully contributing his time to the division he loved so much. It was also always a pleasure to see Phil and his wife, Carole, together at AQC. He will be missed but always remembered.

Navin S. Dedhia: Phil Stein was a towering figure in ASQ. A few years ago, when ASQ published the list of people who had earned all seven ASQ certifications available at the time, Phil was one of the few. His opinion on the board was always sought and counted. He will be remembered by ASQ for his contributions and accomplishments.

Grace Duffy: ASQ has lost a tremendous friend with the passing of Phil Stein. I had the opportunity to meet Phil early in my ASQ involvement. He was working with the division affairs council (DAC) to develop a matrix for the quality body of knowledge (QBoK). As the task became more complex, many divisions retreated from the challenge. Phil, dedicated as he was to the importance of quality, organized the BoK areas identified and graciously bided his time. When the DAC again sought to fully define the QBoK last year, Phil gladly offered his previous work, in excellent form, to the new development team.

Phil not only specialized in measurement and calibration, he specialized in creative and significant thought. It was not unusual for us to start talking about Six Sigma tools and end up discussing Edward De Bono’s Serious Creativity or Water Logic workshops. I loved to talk with Phil and his wonderful wife, Carole, about topics ranging from a Dale Chihuly glass exhibit to the latest in ham radio equipment. The man was brilliant. I am honored to have known Phil, and I am stronger for having been his friend.

Danny Duhan: Phil was one of those rare individuals who could look at a person’s situation and appreciate both the technical and economic challenges while empathizing with the person’s feelings and concerns. He was passionate about ASQ and applying the tools and techniques we use everyday as quality professionals to make the world a better place. He was my friend, mentor and colleague, and we will all miss him very much.

Hope Gonzales: I stayed with ASQ because of people like Phil who knew that to make a difference, you must take things one step at a time. The wealth of information shared, lessons learned and chance to sit back and laugh at ourselves when debates became too intense to focus on the vision are what knowing Phil has meant to me. It has been an honor and privilege to share laughs with Phil and find sanity when times were chaotic. His friendships and contributions to ASQ will live on.

Chris Grachanen: Phil Stein was the inspirational spark that ignited the development of ASQ’s certified calibration technician (CCT) program. Phil took on the challenge to spearhead a certification program for calibration technicians and provided valuable advice, encouragement and guidance throughout the development stages. Without Phil’s indispensable contributions and his never say never attitude, it is likely ASQ’s CCT program would still be wishful thinking.

Robert Raybold: Phil came to the National Bureau of Standards after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College. He worked in the Instrument Division developing scientific instrumentation and automated measurement systems. In the summer of 1972, he moved to the Institute for Basic Standards’ Office of Measurement Services to help automate calibration and scientific experiments.

This was Phil’s first contact with the use of statistical methods and quality control procedures. The automation group designed measurement systems that included a mathematical model of the measurement process, along with the analysis and quality control of data. Phil was one of the primary developers of this automated technology.


1. Philip Stein, “Measure for Measure: New Uncertainty Method Is Taking Hold,” Quality Progress, November 1999.

2. Philip Stein, “Measure for Measure” columns, Quality Progress, September 1999 through July 2004, www.asq.org/pub/

3. Quality Council of Indiana, Certified Calibration Technician (CCT) Primer, 2002, www.qualitycouncil.com.

A Great Quality Spirit by Frank Voehl

In his eulogy of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “If, as I believe, his spirit looks upon us and sees us, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behavior or any mean spirited activity.” I believe we can say the same of our dear fellow in quality, Phil Stein.

Just as Mahatma means “great soul,” Stein may come to mean “great quality spirit,” an honor Phil could easily claim with his powerful intellect and quality leadership. Phil differed from other leaders in that he refused to profit from the misfortune of others, insisting instead that his adversaries be won over by his business ethics and critical thinking ability, coupled with the rightness of his position.

Fellow quality professionals and friends, the light of measurement has gone out of our lives, and where there once was light, darkness is now found. We will not be able to run to Phil for advice and answers, and that is a terrible blow, not only to me but to thousands in this country who have followed his teachings and columns over the years.

The light has gone out, and yet on some level it has not, for Phil’s legacy remains. The light that has illumined this profession for many years will continue to shine for many more through Phil’s writings and the emerging metrology BoK he knew so well and loved so much. Perhaps, as Nehru said of Gandhi, “A thousand years later that light will still be seen in this country, and the world will see it, and it will give solace to innumerable hearts.”

Phil’s light represented the path to quality measurement and its truths—the quality truths that remind us of the right path, draw us from error and take the emerging art and science of metrology to higher levels of understanding and consciousness.

His passing happened when there was so much more for him to do. We are faced with so many difficulties, and his not being with us is a blow that is hard to bear. We have to be strong and determined to face the measurement uncertainties that surround us and carry out the journey our great teacher and leader has given us. And all the while, we should remember that if his spirit looks upon us and sees us, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see we have indulged in unquality behavior.

A great person like Phil is a symbol to us to remember all the big things in life and forget the small things, of which we have thought too much.

Phil Stein’s death left a void no individual can fill.


82 I SEPTEMBER 2004 I www.asq.org




If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board at www.asq.org, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.


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