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The Lubricant Industry Has Lost One of Its Best – The Passing of Theodore W. Selby of the Savant Group

With profound sadness, we announce the passing of Theodore (Ted) W. Selby, founder of the Savant Group, a Midland, Michigan, USA-based consortium of companies operating in the lubricant industry. Talented and respected in equal measure, Ted’s passing leaves the lubricant industry in mourning. Ted died peacefully at age 93 surrounded by family on March 25th, 2022, in Midland, Michigan.

As a pillar in the industry, Ted’s career spanned over six decades. While pursuing his Doctorate Degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of Detroit in the 1950s, Ted found his technical calling as a research scientist in the Lubricants Department at General Motors, where he was honored in receiving both the Russell S. Springer and Henry Ford Memorial Awards from the Society of Automotive Engineers, the first time these two awards were presented to the same person. In 1963, Ted moved to The Dow Chemical Company in Midland to assist with the expansion of its automotive lubrication capabilities. Ever the entrepreneur, Ted made a tough decision in 1969 to leave a good job at Dow Chemical to pursue his passion for problem-solving in the field of lubrication, and the consulting firm, Savant, was born. With nine children at home at the time, the move was not without considerable risk. However, Ted embraced the ideal that the greatest achievements are usually the hardest and those obtained quickly and easily are soon forgotten. Today, that one-man consulting firm has grown into a globally recognized laboratory and research center.

Ted’s problem-solving mindset and creative thinking, coupled with his technical background, sparked the formation of Tannas Company in 1981, a manufacturer of advanced laboratory testing instruments used by companies around the world for analyzing the properties of fluids. Two years later, in 1983, the Institute of Materials (IOM) was formed with the mission of providing unbiased technical information to the lubricant industry. King Refrigeration was purchased in 1996 to expand Tannas’ line of laboratory instruments. Recently, two precision machining shops were purchased, Excell Manufacturing in 2019 and BGT Aerospace in 2021, to support instrument development and manufacturing.

Ted was born October 19, 1928, in Nebraska City, Nebraska; the oldest son of a scientist and inventor who was frequently transferred for job promotions. Consequently, the Selby clan relocated to Iowa, New York City, Chicago, and Detroit. Along the way, young Ted picked up important skills of sharp observation, self-sufficiency, and taking the time to understand people in many ways and circumstances.

When asked about the secret to success, Ted, a devout Christian, always gave credit to God for the many opportunities to serve, the strong and steady support of his wife Jean, who predeceased him in 2018, and to the dedicated employees of Savant Group. One of Ted’s values, instilled across all the Savant Group, was to be wise servants for our customers, our companies, and each other.


Ted’s name has become synonymous with lubrication in the industry. He has been granted Fellow status in ASTM, STLE, The American Institute of Chemists, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science over his career. At 81 years old, ASTM recognized Ted for 50 years of service and over his career has received the Sydney Andrews Scroll of Achievement, the Award of Appreciation, and ASTM’s highest honor, the Award of Merit. At 89, Ted was awarded the STLE International Award, the highest technical honor in recognition of contributions he had made to the advancement of tribology and lubrication engineering. Active until the end, Ted received his 58th patent at the age of 93. He has published more than 250 technical papers and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards.

While the lubricant industry has lost one of its best, Ted’s legacy will likely live on for decades to come inspiring the next generation of problem-solving lubricant experts. For more information, please see the obituary and share condolences at wswfh.com/obituaries/obituary-listings which will be active shortly.

About SAVANT GROUP


Established in 1969, the Savant Group is a consortium of internationally recognized companies providing innovative products and services to the lubrication, transportation, energy, and manufacturing industries. The multidisciplinary expertise provided by the Savant Group enables customers to evaluate performance, monitor quality, perform research, and develop solutions for the technical advancement of lubricants, fuel, fluids, and related products.


Savant Labs (SavantLab.com) – An independent testing laboratory and research center specializing in standardized and custom-designed testing with a focus on data quality and interpretation, innovation, and exceptional customer service.


Tannas (TannasKing.com) – Developer and manufacturer of advanced laboratory instruments for analyzing the properties and performance of fluids and materials.


King Refrigeration (TannasKing.com) — Manufacturer of low temperature laboratory instruments requiring development and application of advanced refrigeration design.


Institute of Materials (InstituteofMaterials.com) – Publisher of the world’s largest independent database of engine oil test data. Reliable, unbiased data is readily available on the physical, chemical and performance characteristics of engine oils collected from the worldwide marketplace.


Excell Manufacturing, Inc. (ExcellMfgInc.com) and BGT Aerospace (BGTAero.com) – Manufacturers of precision parts, offering CNC milling, turning, and boring of metals and plastics for use in premier instruments and equipment.

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Terence Dyson
8 months ago

A long time friend and mentor who liked beer and hamburgers at Amazing Joes in Columbus IN when he came to visit me at Cummins R&D labs. RIP Ted.
Terry Dyson

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