Illinois I-mark

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

In memoriam: Emeritus Professor Walter G. May

Walter G. May, a distinguished professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the University of Illinois, passed away on Feb. 18, 2015 in Savoy. He was 96 years old.

Professor Walter G. May in 1984
Professor Walter G. May in 1984

He joined the chemical engineering department in 1983 after a long career with Exxon. May was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of his contributions to engineering theory and practice in fluidization, high-energy propellants, LNG technology, and centrifugal isotope separation.

An admired and enthusiastic educator, he taught the capstone design course and served as faculty advisor for the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. May retired from Illinois in 1990.

Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, he received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Saskatchewan. He earned a doctor of science degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1943 he joined the faculty of the University of Saskatchewan as a professor of chemical engineering. In 1948, he began a distinguished career with Exxon Research and Engineering Company, where he was a senior science advisor from 1976 to 1983.

Professor May had a particular interest in separations research and throughout his career he published extensively, served on editorial boards of Chemical Engineering Reviews and Chemical Engineering Progress, and held numerous patents.

He was a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and received awards from AIChE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He also served as a member of the National Research Council Committee on Alternative Chemical Demilitarization Technologies, the Stockpile Committee, and the Committee on Decontamination and Decommissioning of Uranium Enrichment Facilities.