LaFay’s career started in a way that would be familiar to many others who grew up in the middle of America, in the middle of the 20th Century, a young man fascinated by cars and the big industrial processes that produced them. He enrolled at Lawrence Technological University in his native Detroit, and there he gained the attention of Wayne H Buell, a past metalcasting industry executive who served as president of that science and engineering institution from 1964 to 1977.

The University recalls Buell as one who “advanced the notion that Lawrence Tech was a private college serving a public purpose,” a notion that apparently influenced the younger Vic LaFay.

“Dr. Buell was looking for a student to do a special project, recruited me, mentored me, and directed me to the foundry industry,” he recalled — the topic was “inorganic binders … sodium silicates” — and later, Buell directed the student to an intern position with Ford Motor Co.

That represented one kind of career fulfillment for LaFay, working in the auto industry, but it also raised his fascination with metalcasting. “Like anybody who’s watched metal being poured into a mold for the first time, it just totally excited me. It just gets into your blood, and one thing leads to another, and it becomes history.”

Buell’s influence undoubtedly was strong on many people in his career, but for Vic LaFay the effect was profound, and lasting. When he was awarded the American Foundry Society Award for Scientific Merit in 1990, he was fully mindful that the same recognition had been conferred 20 years earlier on Wayne Buell.

“It was so humbling … to stand in the shadow of the mentor was unbelievable to me.”

AFS had no doubt of LaFay’s own influence on the science of inorganic binders, noting in the presentation, “his many contributions to the foundry industry through dedicated service on: Technical Committees, Chapters and Congress Presentations, and especially for the technical developments of green sand additives and the promotion of quality assurance programs throughout the industry.”