Fred W. Shaffer, a self-described "hillbilly from the mountains of Central Pennsylvania," who became controller and then vice president and chief financial officer of the former Rohm & Haas Company in Philadelphia, died of complications from pneumonia Monday, January 1, 2018, at Abington Hospital Jefferson Health. He was 85.
Mr. Shaffer spent his entire career with the specialty chemical company after joining it in 1960. He started as a financial analyst and then spent two years as assistant controller of Rohm & Haas' Houston plant. He returned to the main office in 1964 and rose through the treasurer's office to become controller in 1972. He spent the last 19 years as vice-president and chief financial officer, where he worked with other members of executive leadership in steering the company through changing times in American manufacturing. Mr. Shaffer took special interest in mentoring and supporting the careers of young colleagues in his division. One of the outcomes of this time was the establishment of the Annual Fred W. Shaffer Golf Outing, which continued after his retirement.
Along with Rohm & Haas, Mr. Shaffer's great loves were for his family, his hometown of Huntingdon, PA, and his undergraduate alma mater, Duke University. Mr. Shaffer was the fourth of five children born to Helen Whittaker and Charles Shaffer. His mother, one of 11 children, earned a college degree and later taught in a one-room school house, while his father left school in 8th-grade to support his family and eventually held jobs as a juvenile detention guard and electrician. After winning a 1950 election to serve as "boy governor" in Harrisburg with the Pennsylvania YMCA's model government program, Mr. Shaffer went on to enroll at Duke, where he was a magna cum laude major in history, sang in the glee club choir, managed the yearbook, and was elected as a member of the Red Friars honorary society. He remained passionately loyal to Duke for the rest of his life and later served on the Duke Trinity Board of Visitors for several years as well as numerous other Duke committees. In 1990 Mr. Shaffer was awarded the Charles A. Duke Award, the highest volunteer award that Duke bestows on alumni for long-time and meritorious service to the University. A particularly proud moment came when legendary men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski recorded a short video tribute to him in honor of his retirement from Rohm and Haas in 1997.
Following Duke Mr. Shaffer spent a year at the Yale Divinity School before changing his vocation to business. He applied and then deferred his enrollment in Wharton Business School to serve in the Army for two years. In the meantime, he met and married his wife, Catherine Meriel Shaffer. At the end of his Army service, Mr. Shaffer was surprised to learn that Wharton had saved a place for him to matriculate as a scholarship student while working towards his MBA. He graduated near the top of his class and joined Rohm & Haas shortly thereafter.
In addition to Duke, Mr. Shaffer donated his time and made significant charitable contributions to other organizations. While a resident of Upper Moreland and Abington, he served on the board of the United Hospitals and was most recently a 23-year member of the Abington Memorial Hospital and related boards. He also had a long connection to the YMCA, not least of all because he met his wife at the former central YMCA building at 1421 Arch Street in Philadelphia. He served for several years on the Philadelphia-area Y board. Mr. Shaffer was a life-long church-goer who believed deeply in his parents' values of sharing his life's' blessings with others.
In his free time Mr. Shaffer enjoyed traveling with his wife and children, returning many summers to ride horses for a week at a guest ranch in Colorado. He was also fond of singing and played many rounds of golf at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club and in retirement at the golf clubs of Bonita Bay, Florida.
Mr. Shaffer was pre-deceased by his beloved wife Meriel in 2013. He leaves behind a sister, Pauline Grove, three children, Dr. Sarah Hunnicutt, Pauline Shaffer, and Dr. Gene Shaffer, a son-in-law, Dr. Michael Hunnicutt, grandsons Patrick and Nathan Hunnicutt, granddaughters Jessica and Elizabeth Shaffer, and eleven nieces and nephews.
A memorial celebration of Mr. Shaffer's life will take place at Abington Presbyterian Church, 1082 Old York Road, Abington, PA, at 2pm on Saturday, January 13, 2018. A receiving hour will proceed the service, and a reception in the Parish Hall will follow. The family requests that donations in lieu of flowers be made to Abington Health Foundation, 1200 Old York Road, Abington, PA 19001.