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POWER FROM THE PEOPLE: A LIFE IN DESIGN


William Eaton FFCSI, always known as Bill, has retired after a celebrated 45-year career with Cini-Little. Jim Banks asks how he found his way into the business and how it has evolved


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rom the moment Bill Eaton starts to talk it is clear that he is the type of person who will roll up his sleeves, put in the hard work and get the best out of the people to make sure that the task at hand is finished to the highest standard. His gregarious nature, positivity, wit and prodigious memory make him immediately engaging, and it is no surprise that so many of his colleagues are quick to say how much they will miss him now that he has retired.


A former worldwide president


of FCSI, Eaton is both a design and MAS consultant with a huge roster of projects across the US and Asia under his belt, all of them reflecting a passion for foodservice and engineering, the two disciplines he studied at his beloved alma mater, Cornell University. Coming from a well-educated family it was inevitable that his academic career would play a large part in defining his career path, but as a child his ambitions were different.


“When I was eight, I wanted to


be a farmer,” Eaton says. “I was born in Detroit and we had farming all


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around us. There was a hay field at the back of my house and the farmer had a bailing machine that I used to ride. One time I was riding in the field and he was trying to sow crops, but I was at the controls and I hadn’t opened the seed hopper, so nothing was coming out. We had to go back and do it again. That was when I first thought farming might not be for me. Fortunately, there was an


alternative. “My maternal grandfather was a professor of history and economics at Northwestern University and my paternal grandfather was a port administrator,” he says. “My dad was a Cornell PhD chemist with two interesting patents to his name, for each of which he was paid $1. One of them was the original ingredient in the detergent Joy. My mother was a Wells College graduate, like her mother. As a boy it was clear that Eaton was academically gifted and, after moving to Pennsylvania in 1952, aged 12, he developed a love of science and engineering. When looking for colleges he applied only to Cornell’s engineering physics course. “It was a very selective course – comparable to MIT – and I got in as one of only 62 students. When I arrived there at 17, freshmen were not allowed cars, but I was a qualified pilot – I had first flown solo at 16 – and I had a 1947 Aeronca plane, made of wood and covered with paper. So, I flew up to Cornell. “Soon, however, things started


to change. In my first class we had to do calculus, which I had never learned. I did trigonometry and solid geometry in my senior year at school,


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