Abagnale delivers important message during keynote

Brian Sandalow, Associate Editor

ATLANTA – Frank Abagnale Jr. frequently delivers speeches about forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents. His keynote address Monday at CastExpo focused on his life story, which was made into a blockbuster hit movie by Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Abagnale knows people are fascinated by what he did 50 years ago, and how he pulled off his schemes. But instead of just ending there, a contrite Abagnale uses that tale to capture the imagination and attention of his audience, eventually bringing them full-circle to his core message: the importance of family and being there for your closest loved ones.

In front of a packed crowd, Abagnale delivered Monday’s keynote address. Abagnale spent the first 30 minutes of his appearance telling his story, followed by a lively Q&A session. And to get people warmed up for the speech, a theatrical trailer for the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can was screened, meaning Abagnale again watched DiCaprio portray his life.

“I think it’s really good to do, because it keeps reminding you of where you came from and what you did and how you turned your life around,” Abagnale said during an interview. “People are fascinated by what I did 50 years ago – I wake up every day fascinated by the fact that I did those things, and I’ve worked with (the FBI) for 43 years. I’ve done so many things involving technology and things that are used in banks and corporations. I’ve developed a lot of security in print and plastic during my time.

“It’s amazing to me where my life went after that, and it goes to show that only in America can you make mistakes and get up, brush yourself off and start over again,” he added. “You always have that opportunity if you want to change your life.”

After his capture and release from prison, Abagnale has turned the tables on fraudsters, spending over 40 years advising financial institutions, corporations, and government agencies around the world. He has conducted more than 3,000 seminars on identity theft, cybercrime, and fraud worldwide. He lectures extensively at the FBI Academy and in FBI field offices. Today, more than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations, and law enforcement agencies use his fraud prevention programs.

Abagnale’s speech impressed Daniel Engling of Keramida. Engling appreciated how Abagnale didn’t focus on the glamorous parts of his story, but the important values he learned along the way “even when it made himself fess up and face the negative effects of what he did.”  

The Big Winner
Ryan Van Dyke’s project wasn’t easy, and that’s why he said it felt “amazing” when he was named the winner of the 2019 Student Technical Poster Contest. The honor, Van Dyke said, was “so vindicating” of his hard work and hours he spent working on his entry.

Ryan Van Dyke (left) stands with FEF executive director Brian Lewis.

“It means a ton. I put a ton of work into this project over the semester. I was very busy with classes and senior design, on top of this project,” Van Dyke said. “It just means a ton that I get to be able to come here and present my research and for everybody to receive it so well, and then to end up winning the competition."

Van Dyke’s project “Effect of Carbon & Aluminum in Lightweight Ultra High Strength Steels” was voted the best of the seven entries into this year’s contest. Van Dyke, a senior at Missouri University of Science & Technology (Rolla, Missouri) was awarded a scholarship for his win.

The value of this contest wasn’t lost on FEF executive director Brian Lewis.

“It’s important to FEF that these students are continuing to get involved in these types of projects and these efforts and work together as groups, practice their presentation skills (and) dig deeper into the area of metalcasting,” Lewis said. “These projects are very high-level projects and posters. They’re going to get published (in the International Journal of Metalcasting), and we’re happy to sponsor that contest and award the winner a very good scholarship.”

Van Dyke is on track to graduate this December, and will spend this summer as an intern at AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company (Birmingham, Alabama).

Coming Up
Tuesday is the fourth and final day of this year’s CastExpo. The show floor closes at noon. The President’s Luncheon and Annual Business Meeting will also be held.

On Wednesday, Peter Reich will officially become president of AFS.