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In Memory of Irving Wender, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering

On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, it is with profound sadness that we mark the passing of Irving Wender, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and one of the most outstanding researchers in our field.

Many of our colleagues around the world will recognize his name for his extensive research in catalysis, and for his impact with the federal government, but at Pitt he is still remembered for his kind and generous nature. He was mentor to many of our faculty, and was the inspiration for dozens of graduate students, many of whom now have established careers in academia, industry and government. His passion for teaching and research was exceptional, and he will be truly missed.

Irving’s funeral will be held Sunday, September 18 from 1:00-3:00 pm at Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh. Our Department will plan a special tribute at a future date. Please join me in remembering Dr. Wender and celebrating his century of inspiration.

Steven R. Little, PhD
William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair

Irving WenderIrving Wender received his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the City College of New York in 1936, followed by an MS in chemistry at Columbia University (which was interrupted by WWII during which he worked on the Manhattan Project), and a PhD in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, studying the kinetics and mechanism of homogeneously catalyzed hydroformylation (oxo) reactions. This was followed by an illustrious career, first in fundamental, then in applied research, as Project Coordinator, then Research Director, and finally as Director of the Pittsburgh Energy Research Center, U.S. Bureau of Mines. Subsequently, he was Special Advisor to the Program Director, Fossil Energy (FE), at the Department of Energy (DOE), Special Assistant to the Secretary of Fossil Energy, and finally Director, Office of Advanced Research and Technology Development, FE, DOE, in Washington, DC.

In 1981, he accepted a position as Research Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and in 1994, was named Distinguished University Research Professor of Engineering.

Dr. Wender authored over 200 papers (including eight in Nature and two in Science), edited five books and was awarded eleven patents. Among his numerous awards and honors are: the inaugural H.H. Storch Award in Fuel Science in 1964, for distinguished contributions to the science and utilization of coal; the Pittsburgh Award of the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to chemistry in 1968; the K.K. Kelley Award of the Department of Interior for contributions to coal chemistry and catalysis in 1969; and the American Chemical Society Award in Petroleum Chemistry and the Pittsburgh Catalysis Society Award in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of catalysis, both in 1982. In November 1988, he became the first recipient of the Homer H. Lowry Award, presented by the Secretary of Energy in Washington, DC, “in recognition of advancing fossil energy technology through highly innovative research on catalytic conversion of syngas to fuels and chemicals, coal liquefaction and decisive guidance and inspirational leadership in shaping research programs in government, academia and industry.”

As the most fitting tribute, Dr. Wender was recognized by his colleagues on his 100th birthday, June 19, 2015, on the final day of the international NAM24 catalysis conference, for which he served as honorary chair.

Contact: Paul Kovach