CEMS celebrates its legacy and launches new initiative

Neal Amundson, the “father of modern chemical engineering,” and Art Fry, inventor of the Post-it Note, were just two of the more than 300 prominent University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science alumni who gathered last weekend in Minneapolis from around the world.

Celebration FIRST, a first-of-its-kind alumni gathering, celebrated the world-class legacy of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) and mobilized alumni to ensure the department’s future success. The chemical engineering graduate program is currently the top-ranked program of its kind in the nation, according to the National Research Council.

“The department of chemical engineering and materials science is a shining jewel at the University of Minnesota,” said Steven Crouch, dean of the Institute of Technology. “The culture of excellence and the family-like atmosphere the department has created is something we all strive to achieve.”

The weekend’s activities culminated in a dinner and a presentation highlighting the department’s history, achievements, and notable alumni. The program paid special tribute to Amundson, who built the chemical engineering department into an internationally recognized leader during his 25 years as its head. The University's Amundson Hall is named in his honor.

At the event, alumnus W. Richard Schmeal, a retired Shell Oil executive, announced the launch of Campaign FIRST, a $20 million initiative to fund full fellowships for first-year CEMS graduate students.

“The success of this initiative will help us maintain our leadership,” said Frank Bates, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Chemical Engineering and current CEMS department head. “We’ll be able to match financial incentives that our competitors are offering top graduate students.”

In addition to Amundson and Fry, a retired 3M scientist, other notable University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science alumni include Robert Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex; Lee Raymond, former CEO of ExxonMobil; Robert Sundahl, a retired executive of Intel Corporation; the late Harry Heltzer, former CEO of 3M; Robert Brown, president of Boston University and former provost of MIT; and Franklin Orr, director of the Global Climate Energy Project and former dean of earth sciences at Stanford.