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On the eve of our 100th: A letter about Gene Su

December 2, 2014

As the Department of Chemical Engineering prepares to celebrate it’s 100th anniversary next year, department chairman Matthew Yates has received a letter that offers information surrounding the arrival of one of the department’s most illustrious former faculty members: Gouq-Jen (Gene) Su.

gene suSu (shown at left), an expert in the thermodynamics of fluids and the properties of glassy materials, joined the faculty here in 1947. He was one of the department’s most prolific researchers, and had supervised more master’s and PhD theses than anyone in the department’s history when he retired after 27 years.

In a recent letter, William O. Dwyer, professor of psychology at the University of Memphis, writes that his father, Prof. Orrington Dwyer, a former UR ChemE faculty member and department chair, was “the one responsible for bringing Dr. Eugene Su to Rochester in 1947.”

His father and Su, he explained, were classmates at MIT from 1934 to 1936 while earning their master’s degrees in chemical engineering. Dwyer obtained his doctorate at Yale, then joined the chemical engineering faculty at UR in 1939 and served as the second department chair from 1947 to 1951.

Su finished his PhD at MIT, then returned to academic appointments in China, which was soon engulfed in war with Japan. Su’s family “was connected to the Nationalist Chinese and Chiang Kai Shek, and their future in China was becoming risky,” William Dwyer writes. “Gene contacted my father about being sponsored for an academic position in America, and the rest is history.”

Su worked briefly as a chemical engineer for Seagram’s of Louisville in 1946-47, then initially stayed with the Dwyers after arriving in Rochester in 1947. Once he found a house and got settled, Su’s wife and two daughters joined him. The families “spent considerable time together,” Dwyer writes, until 1951, when his father accepted a position at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Beginning in January, you can read a series of “snapshots” from the department’s history as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, including more items about Su and other key figures. For more about ChemE’s 100th anniversary celebration, click here

  Below is a photo, courtesy of William Dwyer, showing William on the left, his brother Bob on the right, with Su's daughters, Irene and Tina in between.