On May 14, 2017, 139 seniors graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, four students received their master’s and five received their doctoral degrees. This year’s convocation was especially notable because the department invited graduate students to the ceremony. Following tradition, faculty advisors placed doctoral hoods over the heads of graduate students, marking their students’ successful completion of the program.
Dr. Elmer Dougherty delivered this year’s convocation remarks. A Kansas native, Dr. Dougherty earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1950 and his MS and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois in 1951 and 1955, all in Chemical Engineering. As a graduate student, he studied under the legendary Professor Harry Drickamer. After graduate school, he worked at Esso and Dow (where he wrote his first computer program in 1955), as well as Union Carbide and Chevron. Along the way he also formed two software companies.
In 1971, Dr. Dougherty joined academia and became a Chemical Engineering Professor at the University of Southern California. He retired from USC in 1995. He continues to be involved in his company, Maraco, an oil and gas software development firm that he established in 1979. He has consulted around the globe and he has written over 50 technical papers. A distinguished member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, he received its prestigious Cedric Ferguson Medal. In 2006, the University of Kansas Chemical Engineering Department inducted him into its Alumni Hall of Fame.
In his address, Dougherty told students that their integrity is a “badge of dependability and trust.”
“If you remember nothing else I say today, remember this. If your boss asks you a question and you do not know the answer, do not, I repeat, do not babble gibberish. Say, ‘I don’t know. But I’ll find out. When do you need the answer?’”
Dougherty advised students to continue honing their communication skills and to express ideas simply and concisely. He also told them that every day of their professional life, “a jury of your peers and superiors is judging you.”
“Before you act, remember your physics, chemistry, and engineering. Does it compute? If it doesn’t, reboot. You only succeed if you get things done, but you must consider the risk,” he said.
In his speech Dr. Dougherty also reflected on his time on campus and the excellent teachers he had, including chemical engineering giants James Westwater, Harry Drickamer, and Tom Hanratty.
“Go out and make your mentors proud of the results of this slice of their life’s work,” he advised.
Feng Sheng Hu, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said students should be immensely proud of themselves for having succeeded in one of the most rigorous programs on campus, one with a longstanding record of excellence, home to award-winning teachers and researchers working at the forefront of their disciplines. As members of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they are also joining a community of more than 160,000 alumni around the world, graduates who have distinguished themselves in business, medicine, research, and many other areas.
“Be a force for good and a strong advocate for your alma mater,” he said.
Department Head Dr. Paul Kenis said he and fellow faculty and staff wished students success in their pursuits and best of luck in their personal and professional lives. He also urged them to stay in touch with the department and he looked forward to hearing news of their accomplishments.
A reception was held in a tent on Centennial Plaza, between Noyes Laboratory and the Chemistry Annex.