May 13, 2019
On Sunday, May 12, 2019, the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering celebrated students receiving bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at a ceremony that took place in the Tryon Festival Theatre in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. A reception was held after the ceremony on Centennial Plaza between Noyes Lab and the Chemistry Annex.
This year’s convocation speaker was Dr. Ray Mentzer, who received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Illinois in 1974, followed by his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Purdue University. He enjoyed a career of 28-plus years with ExxonMobil, working around the world with 14 assignments in a variety of areas, including oil and gas facility design and operation, research, financial management, safety, health & environment, and public affairs. His last position with the company was as Global Safety, Health, Environment and Security Manager.
Upon his retirement from ExxonMobil, Dr. Mentzer joined the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University where he taught the senior-level chemical process safety and oil & gas processing courses for eight years. He oversaw ten graduate students with research focusing on process safety management and metrics, risk assessment, safety culture and resilience, downhole drilling safety, and liquefied natural gas safety. Dr. Mentzer is currently a visiting professor in chemical engineering at Purdue University, teaching the senior and graduate student level process safety course and he is Executive Director of the Purdue Process Safety & Assurance Center. The center is supported by numerous major corporations and focused on the prevention of major industrial incidents such as Bhopal and Deepwater Horizon.
Married for 34 years, he met his wife Beverly, also a chemical engineer, at ExxonMobil. They have two children who hold degrees in mechanical engineering and economics. Dr. Mentzer enjoys reading, golf, and international travel.
In his remarks to students, Mentzer said that within a week of graduation, their GPA will have little significance and no one will ask about it. Instead, graduates should expect their future managers and supervisors to ask, “What have you done for me lately?”
“The key question is where do you go from here. What will you do with the analytic and engineering problem-solving skills that you have acquired here at U of I?”
Mentzer outlined five suggestions.
First: Demonstrate your technical competency and what you have learned.
Second: Be a life-long learner and focus on your career development.
Third: Take to heart the following ‘habit’ from Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:” Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
Fourth: You likely won’t like all of your work assignments or jobs equally, but hard work and a strong work ethic will be a major factor in the opportunities you will be given and your accomplishments.
Fifth: Strive to balance your work life, family life, community and relationships, and personal life.
Department Head Paul Kenis told graduates that he and his Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering colleagues were very proud of their accomplishments.
“We hope we have provided you with the education that will help you become successful and we wish you best of luck in your professional and personal lives,” he said.