Bill Lowrie establishes second professorship in honor of beloved faculty, Umit Ozkan
Honor is a very important word to William G. (Bill) Lowrie (’66). Not for himself, but for people in his life who have inspired him.
Lowrie, who retired from BP Amoco as deputy CEO in 1999, and his wife Ernestine have been Ohio State donors and volunteers since Mr. Lowrie’s earliest days as an Ohio State chemical engineering alumnus.
Over time, as the Lowries saw their continued gifts to Ohio State bear fruit, they began to consider how they might make further impact. With a 2008 $17 million gift, Lowrie created an enduring tribute to his former professor and department chairman, Joe Koffolt, by naming the new Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry (CBEC) building after him, conferring prestige not only to Koffolt’s memory, but to Ohio State as well. With the name “Koffolt” on the tower in the new building, the university decided to honor Bill Lowrie himself by naming the chemical engineering department itself after him, making it the first named department at Ohio State.
That generous gift also created the H.C. “Slip” Slider Professorship in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in honor of Lowrie’s former professor and mentor, Slip Slider, who had so greatly influenced Lowrie’s choice of career, encouraged his success, and inspired him to help others in return.
The Slider Professorship supports an untenured junior faculty—highly uncommon in higher education—and has yielded outstanding results. To date, the three faculty members who have received the honor (Jessica Winter, Lisa Hall, and most recently, Nicholas Brunelli) have each found invaluable help in achieving successes such as winning grant funding, receiving national honors such as the NSF CAREER award (Hall), being named to the American Chemical Society’s 2018 Class of Influential Researchers (Brunelli), and even starting a company (Winter).
And now, Lowrie has created a second professorship—this time in honor of Professor Umit S. Ozkan.
“It has been wonderful to watch the department build upon its successes, and I’ve had the privilege and honor of seeing first-hand the difference a professorship can make in supporting faculty success and the corresponding benefits it can have on the University at large,” Lowrie said at a January 10 luncheon in which he made his surprise announcement to faculty and staff.
“The Slider Professorship has directly led to great results with every recipient to date. I wanted to create even greater impact by establishing a second professorship – this time, to honor Dr. Umit Ozkan,” Lowrie said with obvious pride. “Professor Ozkan has impressed me every step of the way with her extraordinary talent, dedication, vision and achievements. Although I never had Dr. Ozkan as a professor, over the years I have certainly seen the tremendous contributions she has made to her discipline, to her students, to the department and to the College of Engineering,” he said.
Professor Ozkan, a former Fulbright scholar who carries the title of College of Engineering Distinguished Professor, was told privately about the honor just prior to the luncheon. She was taken completely by surprise. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined an honor such as this,” said Ozkan, visibly moved. “I am amazed and humbled at this great gesture of support. It means more to me than I can possibly say. I know it will bring great things to the department, and I am quite overjoyed by that,” she added.
Ozkan, who is an internationally recognized expert in catalysis and electrocatalysis with over 200 refereed publications and six patents, has been a trailblazer in chemical engineering. She began her career at a time when women chemical engineers were few and far between. Mentoring programs were non-existent, and the challenges facing women in STEM academic fields were neither acknowledged nor discussed. Nonetheless, she persisted, and became the first woman to join Ohio State’s department of chemical engineering, remaining the sole female faculty member for 19 years. She was also one of the few female full professors in the College of Engineering at large for many years, and served in college administration from 2000-05 as the first female associate dean for research.
Her success has been acknowledged by many national and international awards and honors. In 2017 she was the first woman to receive the American Chemical Society’s Henry H. Storch Award in its 57-year history. In 2013, ACS also dedicated in her honor a special issue of the premier journal Topics in Catalysis, which included contributions from 35 research groups from 12 different countries, followed by a three-day ACS Symposium. She also won awards from ACS in 2012 (Distinguished Researcher Award) and 2002 (Outstanding Research Award).
Other honors include awards from the Van 't Hoff Institute at the University of Amsterdam (Lectureship Award, 2010), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (Mentorship Excellence, 2009), the Society of Women Engineers (Achievement Award, 2002), the Keck Foundation (Excellence in Engineering Education, 1994), Union Carbide (Innovation Award, 1991 and 1992), the French C.N.R.S. Fellowship (1994), and awards from The Ohio State University College of Engineering and her alma mater, Iowa State University.
“As a woman, I love the fact that Dr. Ozkan has achieved so much, and has been such an outstanding role model,” Ernestine Lowrie said. “I love that we can honor her in this way. My hope is that other people, especially women, will be inspired by her example, and possibly even benefit from this professorship themselves.”
The Umit S. Ozkan Professorship will provide additional support for an outstanding faculty member in the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and affords the department a powerful recruiting tool.
“Creating an endowed chair or professorship is one of the most significant investments a contributor can make to their alma mater, because this type of support is crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty and propelling research,” Department Chairman Andre Palmer said.
“With strong faculty we can attract the brightest students, who benefit by learning from some of the most talented scholars in the world and get hands-on work experiences in the lab. One professor or chair can touch the lives of hundreds of students, so having the right faculty in place is our best point of entry for helping students achieve maximum success,” he said. “We are deeply indebted to Mr. Lowrie for his appreciation of this fact, and couldn’t be prouder to have him as an alumnus of the department.”