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Putnam served as managing director of ASM, the society for materials scientists and engineers, from 1959 to 1983. From 1983 to 1985, he served as senior managing director, a position established to allow for the effective transition of executive management to his successor. He retired in 1985, but continued to contribute to ASM’s success by overseeing the 1988 World Materials Conference hosted by ASM during the society’s 75th anniversary in Chicago.
Putnam was elected an ASM Fellow for his lifetime of achievement and leadership in the materials community. In 1988, the society established the Allan Ray Putnam Service Award in appreciation for the man who was "Mr. ASM" for so many members and colleagues.
A proponent of collaborative efforts between technical societies throughout the world, Putnam served as president of the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives in 1958-1959 and received the CESSE Leadership Achievement Award in 1983. He served as president of the National Association of Exhibit Managers and served on the board of directors of the American Society of Association Executives, the Metal Properties Council and the Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau. A member of numerous societies throughout the world, he was a Life Member of the National Science Teachers Association and an Honorary Member of the Iron and Steel Institute of Japan and the Institute of Materials (UK).
Putnam spent virtually his entire career in the management of technical organizations. Following his graduation from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and four subsequent years in the U.S. Air Force, he joined the executive staff of the American Electroplaters Society in 1946. In 1949, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers appointed him assistant executive secretary and publisher of Tool and Manufacturing Engineer.
In retirement Putnam lived in Orleans, MA, on Cape Cod. His generosity and dedication to service to others continued through his retirement by actively participating in several organizations. He served as president and a board member to The Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, on the board of the Cape Cod Conservatory, and was an active Rotarian. He was a deacon with the First Congregational Church in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.
Born in Melrose, MA, Putnam lived in Wellfleet for a portion of his childhood and summered there virtually every summer thereafter. He was the son of the late Alice Putnam of Wellfleet and Karl Putnam of Roanoke, VA. He was married to the late Marion Witmer Putnam, for 50 years, then to Ann K. Putnam, for 15 years, whom survives him. Putnam had four children, Dr. Judith Kaliski of San Luis Obispo, CA; the late Robert W. Putnam; Victoria Putnam (Cantelmo) of Tequesta, FL; and Christian Putnam of Scituate, MA. He also had 12 grandchildren and three great-grand children.
Known for his unbounded enthusiasm and considerable generosity, Putnam will be missed by his many friends and family, and colleagues throughout the world.