Alumni join forces with retiring professor to endow scholarship
In the spring of 2015 Associate Professor Paul Chan announced his retirement after 35 years on the MU chemical engineering faculty. It wasn’t an easy decision for him. He enjoys what he does, especially his work as the department’s undergraduate adviser as well as his decade-long position as chair of the College of Engineering’s scholarship committee.
“It’s good to work with people who are young and just starting a life and a career,” Chan said. “It keeps you young.”
Chan and his wife Lily decided to pay his career satisfaction forward by starting a chemical engineering scholarship. Unbeknownst to the couple, some of Chan’s former students had the same idea.
Alumni from the classes of 1984 and 1985 first hatched their scholarship plot at a 30-year reunion they organized.
Stephen Welker, a 1984 alumnus who serves as a seed account manager for Monsanto, said that several of those who attended the reunion were part of a group that stayed in touch over the years.
“Dr. Chan is a great guy — a good teacher and mentor,” Welker said.
“He was closer to our age,” said Al Hiken, a 1984 alumnus who currently works as vice president of engineering and technology for Rubbercraft. “He was more approachable and always helpful.”
The idea for the scholarship originated in a conversation between Welker and Amy (Meuse) Sutter, a 1985 graduate who is working as a consultant. She and her husband Terry Sutter, a 1984 chemical engineering alumnus who currently works as an executive adviser for Aurora Capital Group, also hold Chan in high regard.
“Of all of the professors I had at Mizzou, he was certainly my favorite,” Terry said. “He clearly had deep knowledge of anything he was lecturing on and shared those insights with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for teaching. Last and most important, he was incredibly approachable.
“He had real influence on me and was a major factor in me deciding to go to graduate school in chemical engineering as opposed to going to work right after graduation,” Terry added.
Also at the reunion was Edward Ruddy, a 1984 graduate who earned a master’s in chemical engineering at MU in 1992 and currently works for Burns & McDonnell.
“One of my fondest memories of Dr. Chan is my final exam for a graduate level fluid dynamics class. He read a question, and I solved the problem on the board while he watched and commented,” said Ruddy. “I remember Dr. Chan reminding me several times that we had discussed the subject in class, had homework, etc. He never solved a problem for me; he just gently reminded me that I had learned how to solve such problems. I walked out of that office confident that I had done a good job on the test and that I did indeed understand much about fluid dynamics. More than any homework or lecture, that afternoon with Dr. Chan gave me a confidence I hadn’t possessed previously. That confidence has remained with me through 30 years of consulting engineering around the world.
“The primary reason that I was so happy to participate in establishing a scholarship in Dr. Chan’s name is that I know he has worked his entire career to instill that same confidence in every student he could,” Ruddy said.
Though the group wanted to keep the scholarship a secret, they decided to share their plan with their former professor when they learned he had the same idea. Chan has joined forces with them to build the endowment for The Paul C. and Lily Y. Chan Scholarship in Chemical Engineering to the financial level at which it can be awarded.
They are compromising on the award criteria for the scholarship. The alumni group planned to require recipients to be Missouri residents, and the Chans wanted talented international students also to be considered. Either way, a deserving chemical engineering student will be touched by Chan’s long and successful teaching career.
Additional gifts are welcomed to help the scholarship reach the goal. For more information, contact Libby Burkhardt in the Engineering Advancement Office by email or phone at (573) 882-1501.