CLEMSON — Scott Husson of Clemson University is the first recipient of a professorship named for Bill and Martha Beth Sturgis, who made history earlier this year by giving the biggest donation ever to the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Husson on Wednesday became the first William B. “Bill” Sturgis, ‘57 and Martha Elizabeth “Martha Beth” Blackmon Sturgis Distinguished Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Husson said funds that come with the professorship will open new avenues for exploratory research and for students to travel to conferences. He plans to direct some of the funds to help students learn about entrepreneurship.
“It’s certainly a great honor to be selected as the recipient of this professorship – to be recognized by my peers as being worthy of the recognition,” Husson said. “Of course, I’m really excited that it’s going to play a role in training students, particularly chemical engineering students at Clemson.”
Sturgis said he and his wife established the professorship because they wanted to do something to benefit chemical engineering at Clemson, where he got his start studying under influential professor Charles E. Littlejohn Jr.
“The quality of the professors makes the quality of the graduates,” he said. “If you’ve got the money to attract and support top professors, you’re going to attract top students who want to major in that particular area and go on and do well.”
The Sturgises donated $600,000 for the professorship in the spring and said they plan to double their contribution in their will.
The professorship contribution includes a $500,000 endowment that is expected to generate investment returns that can be spent in accordance with the professorship. The remaining $100,000 provides five years of funding while the returns are accumulating.
David Bruce, chair of the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, congratulated Husson on the professorship.
“Dr. Husson is a highly regarded educator and researcher,” Bruce said. “He is a prolific author of journal articles and is translating his research to real-world use through his startup, Purilogics. The Sturgis professorship is a well-deserved honor.”
Husson’s research group is best known for developing membranes that can be used for purification of biologic drugs, an area that he continues to advance. He and Assistant Professor Joseph Scott, also of Clemson, are working to develop a new way of continuously manufacturing biologic drugs, instead of having to do it one batch at a time.
Husson is developing new membrane materials, while Scott creates new computational algorithms that would make the new manufacturing process possible. Their research aims to increase productivity, while lowering capital and operating costs, and making it possible to adjust production volume on demand, Husson said.
In a separate project, Husson is working with collaborators from four institutions to develop new technologies aimed at recovering resources from municipal and industrial wastewater. Such wastewaters contain recoverable energy in the form of organic materials, nutrients that could be used for food production, and water that could be reused for drinking and agriculture.
The team’s focus is on “anaerobic membrane bioreactors,” which have been used in climates warmer than South Carolina.
“There’s technology that goes into operating and running them in cooler climates that would allow them to be used not only in South Carolina, but also throughout the U.S.,” Husson said. “Along with that, we’re working on new membrane materials that improve the efficiency by which we can recover energy and materials from these waste streams.”
Sturgis graduated from Clemson in 1957 with a degree in chemical engineering. He later graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.
In a 37-year career, Sturgis served as executive vice president of worldwide packaging operations at W.R. Grace and president of its North American Cryovac Division.
Sturgis returned to Clemson as an alumnus, where he is an emeritus member of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences advisory board.
Sturgis received Clemson’s Distinguished Service Award in 1990.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, thanked the Sturgises for their support.
“Their inspiring gifts of time and treasure are having a direct, positive impact on our students and faculty,” Gramopadhye said. “I offer my heartfelt thanks to Bill and Martha Beth Sturgis and my congratulations to Dr. Husson.”