John J. McKetta, Jr., a Fellow and former president of AIChE, and a mentor to generations of chemical engineers, died on January 15, 2019, in Austin, TX. He was 103.
In a statement issued by the University of Texas at Austin (UT), Thomas Truskett, Chair of UT’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering, wrote:
For more than 70 years Dr. McKetta called The University of Texas at Austin and our department home. He served in numerous leadership positions, including executive vice-chancellor of the UT System, dean of engineering and as department chair of chemical engineering for three separate terms. He taught more than 6,000 students how to think like engineers.
His vast research and leadership contributions led him to be recognized as one of the world’s foremost energy experts and as one of the most respected professors in engineering. As a philanthropist, he helped raise millions for the university and other causes important to him and his family.
Truly an inspiration, Dr. McKetta lived up to the university’s motto of “What Starts Here Changes the World” every day. His dedication to students, commitment to excellence and generosity inspired thousands of engineers and educators to go out and make their own mark on the world. We are forever in his debt for the knowledge and friendship he passed on during his time here and we are grateful to be a part of his enduring legacy.
The department is currently working with the university to distribute a formal, public announcement, including a video tribute. A memorial service will be held to celebrate Dr. McKetta's life. We kindly request that you note your attendance to the memorial service if you plan to join us.
An authority on the thermodynamic properties of hydrocarbons, McKetta joined the UT faculty in 1946, and served as energy advisor to four U.S. presidents. He retired in 1995, but remained involved in UT life. In 2012, UT renamed its chemical engineering department in honor of McKetta.
Dr. McKetta was very special to AIChE and its foundation. He served as AIChE President in 1962, and was honored by the Institute with the Founders Award, the Van Antwerpen Award for Service to the Institute, the Warren K. Lewis Award for Chemical Engineering Education, and the Service to Society Award.
In the 1990s, McKetta launched an AIChE undergraduate scholarship program with an endowment gift of $100,000. In 2013, Dr. McKetta narrated “The Promise,” a short film created by the AIChE Foundation about the legacy and future promise of chemical engineering, which planted the seed for AIChE’s current Doing a World of Good campaign. And in 2015, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, the AIChE Foundation honored McKetta by renaming its Cumulative Giving Society “The John J. McKetta, Jr. Lifetime Giving Society."
McKetta was a member of AIChE for 82 years, joining the Institute as a student in 1937. AIChE will forever be indebted to John McKetta’s remarkable legacy and his lifelong commitment to the chemical engineering profession and chemical engineering education.