Charles W. Pierce - Armour Institute, Chemical Engineering, 1901. Pierce was the first known African-American Chemical Engineer in the United States. In 1893, Pierce left his hometown of Austin, Texas and eventually settled in Chicago. In 1896, he applied to Armour Institute of Technology. Pierce was admitted to the Armour Scientific Academy, a preparatory school, before being admitted into the technical program. After graduation, he began his career as a teacher at Tuskegee Normal College, now known as Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama. He left his position at Normal College in 1907 and moved to Greensboro, N.C., where he taught at the State Agricultural and Mechanical College, the present-day North Carolina A&T, eventually heading the mechanical engineering department. Chicago began to beckon Pierce again, and in 1921, he became a physics teacher at Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School. Later, in 1935, he moved to DuSable High School and taught science and physics until his retirement in 1941. In October 2007, during the annual Peck Lecture, the ChBE department presented the Distinguished Alumni Award to Pierce’s descendants in recognition and appreciation of his role as the first black chemical engineer in the United States.
Harris Perlstein - Armour Institute, Chemical Engineering, 1914. Perlstein’s career led him to be Chairman of the Pabst Brewing Company, he also served as board president of the Perlstein Foundation and as a director of the Pabst Breweries Foundation. In 1914, he graduated as a chemical engineer from Armour Institute of Technology, which later became IIT. He became an IIT trustee in 1935, chairing the university’s board from 1967-71. During his tenure as chair, the university acquired Chicago-Kent College of Law and established the Stuart School of Management and Finance. Perlstein Hall is named in his honor.
William F. Finkl - Armour Institute, Chemical Engineering, 1918. Finkl was an Industrialist, inventor and innovator in the steel industry. As chairman of the steel company his grandfather founded in 1879, Finkl introduced quality control into the steel industry. He invented numerous steel alloys, particularly those used in creating forging dies, and patented manufacturing processes for steel fabrication. He was an IIT trustee starting in 1948, and in 1980, IIT’s interactive television network was named for him.
Maynard P. Venema - Armour Institute, Chemical Engineering, 1932. "Pete" Venema first served IIT as a student leader, then president of the Alumni Association. Elected to the Board of Trustees in 1963, he served as chairman of the board of IIT and IITRI during the 1970s and as acting president of IIT in 1973-74. He led his profession as chairman of Universal Oil Products and the Mid-America Legal Foundation.
James Oldshue - B.S. Chemical Engineering 1947; M.S., 1949; Ph.D., 1951. Oldshue was a pioneer chemical engineer and benefactor for IIT. He attended IIT on a scholarship and earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1947. He went on to pursue his M.S. degree at IIT, completed in 1949, and his Ph.D. degree, completed in 1951. He began his career as a chemical engineer at the Los Alamos Laboratories for the Manhattan Project while pursuing his Ph.D. at IIT. In 1950, he began working as a chemical engineer at the Mixing Equipment Co., in Rochester, NY. By 1963 he rose to become the Vice President of the company, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. During his time at the Mixing Equipment Co., he also held academic positions. From 1954 to 1957, Oldshue served as a chemical engineering instructor at the University of Rochester and on the Board of Directors at Springfield College in Massachusetts. In 1992, he was an Adjunct Professor of chemical engineering at the Beijing Institute of Chemical Technology in China. He also remained an active alumnus of IIT and was awarded with the Professional Achievement Award in 1982. Oldshue was also inducted into the National Academy of Engineers. He sadly passed away at the age of 81 in 2007.
Lois Bey - B.S. Chemical Engineering, 1950. Bey made history in 1950 as the first female chemical engineering graduate at IIT. Research lead her to the conclusion that a career in engineering suited her the best and she enrolled at IIT in the chemical engineering program after a brief time studying at Wight Junior College. When searching for her first job after IIT, many companies showed resistance towards hiring a woman. Curtis Wellbourne, president of Underwriters’ Laboratories, decided to give Bey a chance in gratitude for the role women played for his company during World War II. She faced many of the same obstacles at her next positions with the Armour Research Foundation and F.M. DeBeers Associates. A job offer to serve as the chief librarian for Baxter Laboratories prompted a career change for Bey. She held the position for 27 years before being hired by the Stepan Company. Bey’s influence on women engineers is immeasurable. She is recognized by the Society of Women Engineers as a pioneer in the industry and a lifelong member. The IIT Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering also presented Bey with its 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award in honor of her legacy as the first woman graduate of the department.
Henry R. Linden - B.S. Chemical Engineering, 1952. Linden, an expert on energy, is known for his research in petrochemical and synthetic fuels processes, including coal gasification. He started as a research professor in chemical engineering at IIT in 1954. He was president of the Institute of Gas Technology, organized the Gas Development Corporation and the Gas Research Institute, and has served as a government adviser in energy research, development and policy since the 1960s. He served as IIT’s president from 1989-90. Linden was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to methods of fuel conversion and energy utilization.
Al Ver B.S. in Chemical Engineering, 1968. Ver’s career led him to executive positions including: VP, COO, and CEO of Automotive Components Holdings, Ford Motor Co. After receiving his chemical engineering degree from IIT, Al Ver obtained an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University in 1972. That year, he joined Ford Motor Company as a manufacturing process engineer before retiring in an executive capacity in 2008. As chief executive officer, Ver managed 23 component and manufacturing plants in the United States and Mexico. Ver is committed to a life of community service. He is board chairman of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit and is a member of the board of directors of the Triangle Education Foundation, a nonprofit group providing leadership and resources to members of the Triangle Fraternity, open to students majoring in engineering, architecture, and the sciences. "I really found myself at IIT and in Triangle," says Ver. "Every single thing I experienced back then contributed to the man I am today."A recipient of an IIT 2010 Professional Achievement Award, Ver has also been honored with membership in the Triangle Fraternity Wall of Fame, as a Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit Outstanding Board Member, and with the Ford Motor Company President’s Health and Safety Award.
Manu Vora - M.S. in Chemical Engineering, 1970; Ph.D., 1975. Vora’s career led him to found Business Excellence, Inc., after 17 years at Bell Laboratories. IIT’s “sterling reputation” for exemplary graduate programs influenced Manu Vora, who came from Mumbai, India, to study at IIT. His days at IIT laid the groundwork for his dual passions: quality management/business excellence and fundraising. He credits his analytical and thinking skills learned at IIT to his successful career at AT&T Bell Laboratories for more than 17 years. Vora served as an adjunct faculty member at IIT Stuart School of Business from winter 1993 to spring 2005. In 2000 he founded Business Excellence, Inc., a global quality-management consulting service firm. During his IIT days, Vora discovered the joy of raising money for good causes. Since 1970, Vora has raised more than $7 million working on over 30 campaigns for social and charitable causes. Vora is a recipient of the 2011 Ellis Island Medal of Honor and has been recognized with a President’s Call to Service Award for his lifetime of voluntary service. Vora served on the board of directors of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) for six years. He has published more than 40 articles in professional journals and conference symposia and has delivered more than 315 presentations on business excellence around the world. Vora is a recipient of ASQ’s Hutchens Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Grant Medal, and Lancaster Medal. From 2006–2010, Vora volunteered as a chair of the IIT Alumni Awards Judges Team. He has been honored with the IIT Professional Achievement Award, the IIT International Alumni Leadership Award, and the IIT Alumni Medal.
Paul Mak - B.S. in Chemical Engineering ‘81. After earning his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Mak worked for 16 years at SC Johnson, where he positioned himself as a business partner. He started in U.S. manufacturing as a process engineer responsible for insecticide production. He later became the production manager and oversaw manufacturing in China. He is now the chief executive officer of Mary Kay Cosmetics Company in China. During the past 13 years with Mak as CEO of Mary Kay China, the organization has become a billion-dollar business.
David Edwards - Ph.D. Chemical Engineering ‘87. An innovator in art and science, Harvard University professor, author, and entrepreneur David Edwards has created a transatlantic career that embraces his scientific mind and satisfies his artistic endeavors. In 2007, he founded Le Laboratoire, an innovation space in downtown Paris, where artists and scientists perform collaborative experiments. The outcomes of these experiments are exhibited to the public in the form of contemporary art and design installations. As a successful biomedical engineer—among the youngest people ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering, at age 39—he has founded five companies focusing on new approaches to drug delivery and providing innovative consumer products, such as airborne nutrition products and edible packaging.
ChBE Alumni who are members of NAE
John E. Anderson (M.S. ChE ’51)
- Elected 1991
- For combining novel engineering concepts with combustion science to reduce atmospheric pollution and improve fuel efficiency in industrial combustion processes
Donald W. Bahr (M.S. Gas Eng. ’51)
- Elected 1991
- For creative and pioneering effort in high-performance aircraft engine combustion systems design and the reduction of their pollutant emissions.
Kenneth Bischoff (B.S. ChE ’57, Ph.D. ChBE ’61)(Deceased)
- Elected 1988
- For excellence in research and education in chemical reaction engineering and in biomedical engineering
David A. Edwards (B.S. ChE ’87)
- Elected 2001
- For transfer of scientific principles of engineering to industry, including invention and commercial development of a novel, generic aerosol drug-delivery system
John F. Kahles (B.S. ChE ’39)(Deceased)
- Elected 1984
- For pioneering research on correlating processing practices with their effects on surfaces and improving productivity by effective dissemination of useful data on metal removal
Henry Linden (Ph.D. ChE ’52)
- Elected 1974
- Contributions to methods of fuels conversion and energy utilization
James Oldshue (B.S. ChE ’47, M.S. ChE ’49, Ph.D. ChE ’51)(Deceased)
- Elected 1980
- Pioneering work in establishing the fluid mechanics of mixing and its practical application to industrial and municipal processing
W. Robert Marshall (B.S. ChE ’38) (Deceased)
- Elected 1967
- For contributions to chemical engineering profession
G. “Rex” Reklaitis (B.S. ChE ’65)
- Elected 2007
- For developing the theory and application of batch design, scheduling, and optimization tools, and for outstanding contributions to education