The Legacy of Thomas J. Hanratty
Friday, Oct. 27-Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017
About 40 alumni, former colleagues and family members gathered during Homecoming weekend for an event honoring the legacy of longtime chemical engineering faculty member Dr. Thomas J. Hanratty. A pioneer in fluid dynamics, the late Dr. Hanratty was a respected and integral part of the department. He became an assistant professor in 1953 and formally retired in 1997. After retiring, he served as interim director of the School of Chemical Sciences, but also continued his research and writing. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Hanratty passed away in 2016.
On Friday afternoon, the department hosted a series of technical presentations featuring former students and colleagues: Dr. Ronald Adrian, Regents Professor, Arizona State University; Dr. John Kuzan (PhD ’86), Research Manager, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co.; Dr. Dimitrios Papavassiliou (PhD ’96), C.M. Sliepcevic Professor, University of Oklahoma; and Dr. Mark McCready (PhD ’84), Professor, University of Notre Dame. In addition, Dr. Paul Kenis, William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor and Department Head, spoke about the long-lasting impact of the Hanratty Travel Fund, which provides support for graduate students to attend professional conferences, and Dr. Jonathan Higdon provided an overview of current fluid mechanics research at Illinois. Download the program here.
At the Friday evening reception at the Chemistry Library, people spoke about the impact Professor Hanratty had on their professional and personal lives, and shared memories of their time at Illinois. Ted Wegner (PhD ’72) said Dr. Hanratty was an excellent teacher who provided him with opportunities to work through his thesis problems on his own and grow as a researcher.
“He had such a depth of knowledge in fluid mechanics and was dedicated to his work. He trusted in his grad students’ ability to develop and mature into independent researchers,” Wegner said.
Ron Adrian, professor emeritus from Illinois and now Regents Professor at Arizona State, said Hanratty was a great mentor. “What I learned from Tom was to always make conclusions. If you don’t come to conclusions, it’s not good research,” he said. Adrian said he remembered Hanratty’s love of basketball, that he was proud of his Irish heritage, and he had a passion for learning about different cultures—and when visiting a place, “he would walk your feet off.”
Many former students remained in touch with Hanratty over the years. Phil Reiss (PhD ’62) said his advisor was like a father figure to him, providing him with wisdom, guidance, inspiration, help and friendship throughout the years. Reiss shared a few humorous anecdotes, such as how he waited anxiously for at least 45 minutes after giving his final defense while the faculty committee remained behind closed doors. When Professor Hanratty finally opened the door, he spotted Reiss and said, “Oh, are you still here?” Then, they went across the street to a tavern for celebratory drinks. Reiss asked his mentor what he would like, and Hanratty requested a Bromo-Seltzer. Jay Campbell (PhD ’81) reminisced about the “inventive moments” Dr. Hanratty would have, such as writing equations on the blackboard, then pausing to look out the window deep in thought for about 30 seconds or so before returning to the equations.
On Saturday, the weekend’s festivities continued with the department’s annual football tailgate, followed by department tours. Many Hanratty alumni visited new ChBE labs for an overview of current research. They also were able to drop by their former graduate student offices and see parts of the old flow loop equipment, now in Talbot Lab. The weekend concluded with a Saturday evening dinner at the Illini Union with additional talks by Mark McCready and Jon Higdon.
If you’d like to submit memories of Dr. Hanratty, please do so by following this link.