“Giving Back” – Silas and Sofia Wong – The Dr. Mark Thies Fellowship Endowment

September 25, 2018

Silas and Sofia Wong hiking with Dr. Mark Thies and Evanne Thies in Alaska in 2014, along with their son Julian and a friend. (Not pictured are the Wong’s other two children – Alex and Claudia).

Silas and Sofia Wong both received their B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering at Clemson University in 1995 and 1994, respectively. They met during the beginning of their undergraduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Silas received his B.S. in Biology at McGill in 1990, and Sofia was two years behind him. Silas acquired a job in South Carolina after his graduation from McGill, and he and Sofia got married. Two years after Sofia started at Clemson as a transfer student, Silas decided to join her to get his second B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering. They were both very grateful for the loans and grants which allowed them to be in school at the same time.

While obtaining their B.S. degrees at Clemson, Silas and Sofia came across several professors who impacted their lives, including Dr. Charles Barron, Dr. Doug Hirt, Dr. Charles Gooding, Dr. Amod Ogale and Dr. Bud Rice. However, the one they owe a lot of what they are today to is Dr. Mark Thies. While at Clemson, Dr. Thies was a hard, demanding teacher who emphasized quality, accuracy, and safety. Dr. Thies made sure you knew your material in class and in practice. He would often say, “teachers don’t fail you, you fail yourself.” This demand for quality and accuracy carries through to their careers today.

Sofia and Silas started out with Occidental Chemical, which eventually lead them to the Houston area. Once in Houston, Sofia moved to Exxon in 1997, while Silas started working with a Shell Oil subsidiary. Silas then worked with Grace in their Catalysis Division, and he is now a contract employee as they follow Sofia’s many moves with ExxonMobil. Sofia is presently the General Manager of the Nigeria Projects Organization in Lagos. She is primarily responsible for restoring the integrity of aging facilities, and developing new offshore opportunities to increase oil production.

Prior to Nigeria, Exxon provided Silas and Sofia the opportunity to work and live in Alaska from 2009 through 2015, where they still consider home. They then returned to Houston for a year before moving to Singapore in 2016, and have been in Nigeria since early 2017. During this time, they managed to raise three wonderful children: Alex (21) is a senior chemical engineering student at Cornell University; Claudia (19) is a sophomore National Honors Scholar in the Bioengineering Department at Clemson; and Julian (11) is in Middle School in Lagos.

Their degrees from Clemson have provided Silas and Sofia the opportunity to live, work, and travel around the world. Realizing how important loans and grants were to their success in college and their careers, they want to Give Back to their alma mater and honor their mentor, Dr. Mark Thies. Therefore, they have created the Dr. Mark Thies Fellowship Endowment that will offer an academic scholarship to a deserving Graduate Student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

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