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Alumni, faculty and students celebrate 100 years of chemical engineering at Clemson University

January 22, 2018

In November 2017, the 100th anniversary of chemical engineering at Clemson University was marked with a full day of events that began with a campus tour, included lively stories of years past  and ended with an alumni dinner.

David Bruce, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said the anniversary served as an opportunity to thank alumni and celebrate the department’s successes.

Students and alumni gathered in front of Earle Hall during the 100th anniversary celebration of chemical engineering at Clemson University.

Students and alumni gathered in front of Earle Hall during the 100th anniversary celebration of chemical engineering at Clemson University.

“We had a great turnout,” he said. “The celebration underscored that chemical engineering is an important and critical part of the University. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and are well positioned for another century of success.”

The days’ events included a tour of campus and Earle Hall and a luncheon in the president’s box at Memorial Stadium featuring a talk by Tony Elliott, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach for the Clemson Tigers. Later, attendees went to a research seminar at the Watt Innovation Center with Dr. Tony McHugh, the Ruth H. and Sam Madrid Professor at Lehigh University. Dr. McHugh was the inaugural speaker of the Dr. Dan Edie Distinguished Lectureship series.  This lectureship was established through an endowment that honors Dr. Dan Edie’s career as a teacher and researcher in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department.

The 100th anniversary event ended in the evening with an alumni dinner and a presentation at the Madren Center, which highlighted key milestones for the department.

The current department chair, David Bruce, posed for a photo with four of his predecessors during the celebration. They are (from left to right): Bruce (2016-present), Douglas Hirt (2009-2016), Charles Gooding (1996-2006), Dan Edie (1994-1995), and Charles Barron (1987-1994).

The current department chair, David Bruce, posed for a photo with four of his predecessors during the celebration. They are (from left to right): Bruce (2016-present), Douglas Hirt (2009-2016), Charles Gooding (1996-2006), Dan Edie (1994-1995), and Charles Barron (1987-1994).

Chemical engineering was first introduced at Clemson in the 1917-18 academic year. The course of study died out after the 1924-25 academic year and returned in 1933.

Much has changed since the program’s early days. Chemical engineering has grown from four graduates receiving Bachelor of Science degrees in 1923 to 73 this year, a 1,725 percent increase. Their average starting salary has grown from about $2,100 a year to $70,000 a year, an increase of more than 3,233 percent.

In the same period, the program has gone from zero graduate students to 55 Ph.D. students this year, and research expenditures have grown from zero to more than $4 million per year.

When the program first began, Clemson was a male-only military college. This year, a third of students in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are female.

Susan Glen Herrington, Class of 1970, was the first female Clemson graduate to receive a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and Beth Gainey Stoner in 1991 became the first female at Clemson to receive a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University.

Several alumni attended the celebration from the Class of 1955 through the Class of 2016. Pictured here are Bacil Dickert and Joe Alexander from the Class of 1955.

Several alumni attended the celebration from the Class of 1955 through the Class of 2016. Pictured here are Bacil Dickert and Joe Alexander from the Class of 1955.

Dr. Rachel Getman was promoted to associate professor this year, making her the department’s first female professor to receive tenure.

Clemson received $1.175-million from the Olin Foundation in 1958 to construct Earle Hall, and the building remains the home of chemical engineering. The department acquired its current name in 2005 when biomolecular engineering was added to what was then the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The department’s largest grant came in 1998 when the National Science Foundation provided $29 million to establish the Center for Advanced Fibers and Films. Prof. Dan Edie served as center director before handing the reins over to Prof. Douglas Hirt. Dr. Amod Ogale became director in 2009 and remains in that role today.

Dr. Hirt became chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 2009 before stepping aside in 2016 to become associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

Dr. David Bruce assumed the Chair position after Dr. Hirt. “With a century behind us, we are well positioned for future success,” he said. “I thank all who joined us to celebrate this momentous occasion.”

written by Paul Alongi, College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences



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