New York (July 19, 2005)–Donald J. Plunkett, a charter member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), executive director for 20 years and past president, passed away suddenly in New York on July 15, 2005. Plunkett was 81 years of age. He is survived by his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Liz), his son, Christopher, his daughters Hilary Jones, Libby Mastoloni, and Emily Fleischer, and four grandchildren. Donald PlunkettAs a young man, Plunkett came across a Columbia Graphophone Cylinder Recording Reproducing machine in his grandparent’s attic, and thus began a life-long love affair with recording. His career highlights include working at NBC, Capitol Records, Fairchild Recording Equipment, and with other professional audio pioneers such as Emory Cook, in both equipment manufacture and operation. He was involved in the fledgling independent record market in the days when it was regarded as a niche market and the 78 rpm lacquer disk was state-of-the-art.
In January 1948, Plunkett met Norman Pickering and Ted Lindenberg who were part of the organizing committee for the AES. He became a member of the committee and was involved in the formation of the Society in February 1948. He attended the first formal meeting of the AES in March 1948. From that point the Society moved ahead rapidly. During its formative years Plunkett was president, executive vice president and governor. Following the Society’s first two pivotal decades he was appointed AES executive director in 1974. In the ensuing years, he was responsible for the expansion of membership into Europe and the implementation and stability of AES conventions in several parts of the world. He remained active in AES affairs far beyond its 50th Anniversary in 1998, attending international conventions and serving as a good will ambassador and a valued advisor for young and old audio professionals alike.
Plunkett received numerous AES honors throughout his more than 50 years of active service. These include Fellowship and Honorary Awards, and the Distinguished Service Medal. An irreplaceable member of the professional audio community, he will be deeply missed by everyone who had the good fortune to know and work with him.
Personal and professional remembrances:
My recollections of Don relate mostly to my tenure as president of the Society, and my image of him in this context is that of a ‘steady hand on the tiller’. He had seen it all, and as we younger people came and went through the elected administration of the AES, he was always there to give his form of quiet, but firm, guidance. He clearly played a big role in shaping the organization–his knowledge of the industry was profound. Many of us have greatly enjoyed Don and his charming wife Liz at the heart of social gatherings. He is well remembered.
Floyd Toole, PhD, AES Fellow and Vice President Acoustical Engineering, Harman International
While many of us only saw Don in his role of running the AES Conventions, his passing brings a fond remembrance of all the positive actions he took to grow the Society and the pro audio industry. He had a love and a passion for our industry and its many broad constituencies, both technical and commercial. He was also a true gentleman and a loving family man. Our industry was fortunate to have him dedicate his life to our growth. Personally, I have benefited from having known him and learning and sharing with him the true values of a “good man and a meaningful life”. We are all indebted to Don for his decades of vital leadership. He was a gem.
Paul Gallo, Executive Director Pro Audio Manufacturers Alliance(PAMA)
Don was really the AES to many people. From its inception to its fiftieth birthday and beyond, he was there. He had an incredible memory for names and faces and could usually remember where he met someone and what they talked about. He was a quiet guiding hand and mentor to many, including myself and will be sorely missed.
Roger K Furness, Executive Director AES
My best memories of Don were my early ones, when we [Dolby] were a relatively small company and pretty much unknown. We had decided that the AES was the place to exhibit and to join the professional audio community. Don went out of his way to welcome us, to make sure we had everything we needed, and was always ready with a word of encouragement. That meant a lot to us as we made our way with new ideas.
The AES Conventions, then two a year and later three, were the high spot on our annual calendar–and Don was instrumental in making that so. Under his leadership the AES went from a fairly small organization into a worldwide respected professional group.
We shall miss him.
David Robinson, AES Fellow and former Dolby Sr Vice President
I remember Don as a mentor to me as an incoming AES officer. Don and I were talking about efficient traveling for AES business when Don gave me the following good advice: He said that one could travel lightly and still be very business-like if one packed two sports coats and three dress slacks to mix and match instead of a variety of suits etc. I have found have found this advice very practical over the years.
Don also had a great hand in shaping the AES as it is today. This paradigm helped the AES grow into the important international organization it is now.
Louis Fielder, Dolby Labs, AES Fellow
To me, Don was and always will symbolize the AES. It was his infective enthusiasm that first got me involved in AES governance. He made the AES feel more like a family of like-minded individuals rather than just a professional society that one goes to just to compare technical notes. His vision, people skills and knowledge guided us during a tremendous growth period for the AES. I will greatly miss his presence both personally and professionally, and my sympathy and condolences go to Liz, Chris, and the rest of Don’s family.
Marina Bosi, Chief Technical Officer at MPEG LA, LLC, AES Past President and AES Fellow