sealPurdue News

September 6, 2000

Alums' support sets pace for $20 million
chemical engineering expansion

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Support from two Purdue University chemical engineering graduates is paving the way for the school's largest expansion and renovation in more than 60 years.

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A pledge from 1947 chemical engineering graduates Robert and Marilyn Glenn Forney of Unionville, Pa., will cover the engineering and design fees and a major portion of the estimated $20 million-plus enhancement costs. The expansion will add 67,000-square-feet – a 60 percent increase – to the existing chemical engineering building, as well as renovations throughout the 1940 structure. Funding for the improvements will come from private gifts through the school's "ChE: Champions of Excellence" campaign.

The improvements include an interactive multimedia learning center, a lab for teaching chemical engineering fundamentals, and an integrated lab complex that will be used for studying advanced chemical engineering topics and polymer engineering. Areas for biomedical, catalysis and surface science research each will have their own cluster.

"We have had improvements over the past few years, but this is the first major facilities project since the chemical engineering building was constructed 60 years ago," said G.V. Reklaitis, head of the School of Chemical Engineering. "This expansion accomplishes three objectives: It will bring advanced technology into the classroom through multimedia activities and interactive learning. The teaching laboratories – both the fundamental and advanced levels – will give students the opportunity for hands-on learning and creative problem-solving. The research laboratories will emphasize biomedical engineering, nanotechnology and surface science. Together these aspects will enable Purdue to continue its leadership role in the field of chemical engineering, and ensure that we stay at the forefront of this dynamic discipline."

Reklaitis said gifts, like the Forneys', make this enhancement possible.

"Bob and Marilyn have been long-term supporters of the school, concerned with its well-being, growth and leadership," Reklaitis said. "Schmidt Associates of Indianapolis is working on the design of the project now, and we would certainly not be at this stage without the Forneys' help."

Robert Forney retired in 1989 as executive vice president of DuPont, and Marilyn Glenn Forney has spent the past 20 years offering expertise in the construction of more than 800 low-income housing units for the elderly and disabled in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

"We've stayed in touch with Purdue, particularly the School of Chemical Engineering, and we understand the need for both the expansion and the renovation because a lot of things have changed since 1950," said Robert Forney, who also earned a doctorate in 1950 and was awarded a Purdue honorary doctorate in 1981. "We decided we wanted to get involved with this project because, in addition to its other features, it will pave the way for more research and graduate studies in chemical engineering in this new century and new millennium."

Marilyn Glenn Forney, who has led fund-raising efforts in a number of volunteer organizations, said it is important to give to worthy enterprises.

"Our education at Purdue has been a very integral part of our life, and we feel it's important to give back," she said. "This is an important venture because of the many profound developments in chemical engineering, and we cannot afford to let these ongoing changes get past us. This expansion and renovation will keep Purdue at the top of the field."

They hope the gift to Purdue will set an example to other active chemical engineering alumni, which number about 7,000.

"This expansion and renovation will be completed with private gifts, and since Purdue has one of the largest undergraduate chemical engineering programs in the world, I believe support for this campaign will be strong," said Reklaitis.

Construction and renovation is projected to begin next summer with completion expected in 2005.

The School of Chemical Engineering has about 430 undergraduate students, 110 graduate students and 24 faculty members. It offers expertise in polymer/material research, dispersed phase and particulates research, biomedical engineering, biochemical engineering, catalysis and surface science, and process systems. Current research includes the combinatorial development of catalysts and of a heat controlled device to automatically administer drugs, such as insulin.

The expansion in chemical engineering is part of a campaign by the Schools of Engineering that is projected to exceed $400 million, thus expanding engineering research and teaching facilities by 60 percent.

"Purdue is recognized as a top engineering university in the world. These comprehensive plans are essential to providing our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as our faculty, with the finest facilities for learning and research," said Richard Schwartz, dean of the Schools of Engineering. "The upgrade in the School of Chemical Engineering is vital to this goal."

Sources: Robert and Marilyn Glenn Forney

G.V. Reklaitis, (765) 494-4075,

Writer: Cynthia Sequin
Contact: Jesica Webb, (765) 494-2079;

Additional contacts: Richard Schwartz, dean, Schools of Engineering, (765) 494-5346,

Bettina McConnell, associate director of development and alumni relations, School of Chemical Engineering: (765) 494-4065;

Robert and Marilyn Glenn Forneys' gift launches a campaign to raise more than $20 million to expand and upgrade the Purdue University's School of Chemical Engineering.

A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Forney.chemical

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