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New scholarship a surprise honor for chemical department’s Chan

Paul Chan sits for a photo behind his cluttered desk.

Paul Chan, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Chemical Engineering Department, went to start a scholarship of his own, only to find out some of his former students had started The Paul C. & Lily Y. Chan Scholarship in Chemical Engineering already.

On the verge of his retirement from full-time faculty duties, Paul Chan decided it was the right time to give back to the University of Missouri, where he’s worked for the last 35 years. So he reached out to the College of Engineering’s Office of Advancement to discuss setting up a scholarship.

Imagine his surprise when he discovered a group of his former students were already secretly starting one in his name.

The Paul C. & Lily Y. Chan Scholarship in Chemical Engineering began to take shape last fall with a reunion for a group of chemical engineering alumni that graduated in 1984 and some from 1985. A discussion on how to give back to the college and the Chemical Engineering Department ensued, and eventually, Steve Welker, BS ChE ’84, and Amy Meuse-Sutter, BS ChE ’85, started working with the Office of Advancement to set up an endowment for the group in the name of one of its most beloved faculty members.

“When we were in school, we didn’t realize it but Dr. Chan was pretty young at the time and had just started his career,” said Welker, now the seed account manager for Monsanto Company. “Really not that much older than most of us. He was a great teacher, and when we got back together again, we said, ‘Let’s get a hold of Dr. Chan,’ and he gladly met with us at the Heidelberg for a beer and again Saturday morning, and he helped organize a tour.

“He was just a great teacher and the kind of guy we wanted to keep in touch with.”

The initial plan was to surprise Chan with news of the endowment later, but once they discovered he planned to start one of his own, the cat had to come out of the proverbial bag.

“Libby [Burkhardt, advancement officer] called me and said he was doing that, and asked if we could put it all together in one, and I said absolutely,” Welker said. “The more the merrier. It’s pretty neat how it all worked out.”

Chan, an associate professor and the longtime director of undergraduate studies for the department, said he was pleasantly surprised the students wanted to name their endowment for him and was all too happy to contribute to it once he discovered their plan.

“I wanted to start one personally because many of the other professors who have gone before me have established scholarships, especially the ones who deal with students a lot,” Chan said. “These people have spent a lot of time with students, spent time on the scholarship committee; they know that scholarships are important for some students.”

Chan wanted to do it now, before his retirement from full-time teaching duties ends prior to the fall semester. He’s hoping to stay on in some capacity in the future but said he’s taking it step by step.

“Right now, I’m transitioning. Actually, I probably sleep a little better at night because you know that this is drawing to a close,” he said, chuckling.

With the endowment now created, further donations are welcome and encouraged. If you would like to contribute to the Paul C. & Lily Y. Chan Scholarship in Chemical Engineering, please contact Libby Burkhardt in the Advancement Office at BurkhardtE@Missouri.edu or (573) 882-1501.

“The goal is to get funds into the hands of students that need it,” Welker said. “We wanted to help in some way. A lot of us paid our own way through school and wanted to find a way to help someone else be able to go through the Chemical Engineering program at Mizzou.”