“Paying it Forward” – Dr. Stephen and Patricia Melsheimer Endowment

September 25, 2018

Dr. Steve and Patsy Melsheimer

In 1961, Dr. Stephen Melsheimer started his academic career as a Chemistry major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. However, the Chemistry curriculum did not motivate him, and his grades began to suffer. After his fall sophomore term, Dr. Melsheimer decided to give Chemical Engineering a try and switched his major. It was there in Chemical Engineering that he met his mentor, a professor by the name of Dr. Dale von Rosenberg, who taught the equivalent of ChBE 2110 – Mass and Energy Balances. Dr. von Rosenberg had a rather gruff, caustic manner and was a rigorous grader. As LSU had an “open door” admissions policy, and the first ChBE course is always a challenge, many sophomore ChE students (nearly 50%!) would fail or drop However, he was very interested in his students, especially those who worked hard. This inspired Dr. Melsheimer, who earned an “A” and his subsequent GPR took a significant turn for the better. He took the balance of his sophomore ChE classes in summer school and caught up with his peers as a junior in ChE. After another successful term in his Fall junior term, he received a $250 scholarship (big money in those days!) This scholarship was a big relief, as LSU tuition at that time was $76 per semester and his dorm cost only about $120. Interestingly, his dorm room was located under LSU’s Tiger Stadium, and directly adjacent to LSU’s ChemE building. This scholarship made a world of difference and helped lay the foundation for Dr. Melsheimer’s future career. After receiving his Bachelors in Chemical Engineering in 1965, he decided to pursue a PhD – and, followed his mentor, Dr. von Rosenberg, who had moved on to Tulane University.

After completing his doctorate, he interviewed for a faculty position at Clemson, and was delighted to accept the position of Assistant Professor when offered by Professor C.E. Littlejohn. He and his beautiful wife Patsy, who he met when they were high school seniors in his hometown (Plaquemine, La), moved to Clemson in January, 1969 – a bitterly cold winter, especially for South Louisiana natives! Patsy recalls wondering what her husband had gotten her into! Thus, began the building of his career as well as their family here at Clemson. Needless to say, he and Patsy quickly fell in love with Clemson, and in short order their family had expanded to include three daughters – Gretchen, Wendi and Kirsten.

Dr. Melsheimer’s first semester teaching included a Unit Ops lecture class (two sections!) plus an Analog Computing Lab (4 sections!). Over the next few years he taught almost every undergraduate course, and began his research career, focusing on process control and membrane separations. He was promoted to full Professor in 1975. During his tenure in Chemical Engineering, Dr. Melsheimer was the advisor for our AIChE student chapter from 1973 to 1978. He started the Shrimp Boil in 1971, still an annual tradition for our AIChE chapter. And you can still see him at our current Shrimp Boils, ensuring that everything is cooked to perfection. His professional duties included serving as Clemson’s Faculty Senate President (1981-82), chairing the university SACS accreditation review committee (1989-91), and numerous other college, university and professional assignments. His research and professional activities led to over 27 publications and numerous presentations. He served as the Interim Department Chair from 1986 through 1987. Then, in 1993, he was promoted to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the College. As Associate Dean, he had a special focus on international programs for engineering students, and was instrumental in setting up Chemical Engineering’s Vienna, Austria, summer study abroad program. He was also instrumental in creating the College’s EPIC International Co-Op program and numerous study abroad opportunities including the summer study abroad program in Trier, Germany. The study abroad opportunities for our ChBE students continue today, notably including a summer program in Denmark. Dr. Melsheimer continued to serve as Associate Dean for the College until his retirement in 2008.

Dr. Melsheimer – Interim Department Chair – 1986-1987

Because the scholarship he received as an undergraduate at LSU made such an impact on his life, his career, and his family, Dr. Melsheimer and his wife Patricia want to Pay it Forward. They have recently established The Stephen and Patricia Melsheimer Endowment. Their endowment will provide a scholarship to a worthy top rising junior, with a possibility of a renewal during their senior year. The goal of this scholarship is to recognize, reward, and encourage the student’s success by relieving them of the financial burden of their tuition, so they can concentrate on their classes and their future.

Dr. Melsheimer supervising an AIChE Shrimp Boil fundraiser in 2013.

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