UT Remembers: Eugene H. Wissler and John J. McKetta, Jr.
Friday, May 10, 2019, marks the UT Remembers annual memorial program, a time for us to reflect on the contributions made by two inspiring former professors that Texas ChE lost in the last year: Eugene H. Wissler and John J. McKetta Jr. These great educators impacted not only their respective fields, but their students, their colleagues, and the university community.
Eugene “Gene” Wissler (December 18, 1927 – June 26, 2018)
Gene Wissler was a distinguished scholar, researcher, professor, and an early pioneer and ongoing contributor to the field of biomedical engineering and, specifically, human thermoregulation systems. At UT Austin, Wissler served as chair of chemical engineering, as associate academic dean and associate dean of the Graduate School, and he helped establish what became the biomedical engineering department. His research and development of complex models over more than half a century were adopted for the design of life-saving devices and techniques in a wide variety of military, university, and private sector applications, as far ranging as designing space suits for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), methods for deep sea divers in extreme environments, and treatment approaches for severe burn patients. Wissler was an acknowledged international thought leader in his field and he continued researching and writing until his death. Not only was Gene Wissler instrumental in positioning Texas ChE as a top program, he will be fondly remembered for his lifelong dedication to his students.
John J. McKetta, Jr. (October 17, 1915 – January 15, 2019)
As a renowned expert in the thermodynamic properties of hydrocarbons, John McKetta served as energy adviser to five U.S. presidents, authored 87 books, was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and was named one of the “50 Chemical Engineers of the Foundation Age” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. At UT, he served as executive vice chancellor of the University of Texas System, dean of engineering and chair of the chemical engineering department three separate times. For more than 70 years, McKetta, our department’s namesake, was known throughout the UT Austin community as an educator who went above and beyond to connect with and encourage his students. He was famous for befriending and mentoring students, inviting them to weekend picnics at his family property and calling them personally on their birthdays, well into his retirement years. In 2013, he was voted one of UT Austin’s 10 most inspiring professors by the Texas Exes. John McKetta’s legacy is one of giving back– to his students, to the university, and to the community at large.
Texas ChE is truly grateful for John and Gene, their countless contributions, and the impact they have had on generations of Texas engineers.