When West Virginia University alumnus Preston Wu Shyon Chen received his honorary doctorate this past spring, he credited his mentor, the late Chin-Yung Wen, with helping him find the drive to succeed. Wen, who like Chen hailed from Taiwan, served as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at WVU from 1970-1981.
“When I thought that I could not make it here in the United States, it was Professor Wen who ensured that I had the financial scholarship necessary for me to stay in school,” Chen said. “It was him who brought me to West Virginia. And it was him who encouraged me to work hard, stay focused and be better than what I had ever been before.
“He was tough, but he was fair,” Chen continued. “We worked seven days a week. No football games or fraternity parties for us. But it is because of him that I am here today, nearly two generations later, receiving this incredible honor. It takes pioneers and leaders like Professor Wen, and I am proud to be associated with West Virginia University, which has so many of them.”
In honor of that association, an investment company associated with Chen – Hung I Investments Co. Ltd. – has created the Professor Chin-Yung Wen Chemical Engineering Opportunity Fund. Monies from the $150,000 endowment may be used to support events and activities to memorialize and honor Wen, and may include holding distinguished lectures on cutting-edge chemical engineering research, providing scholarships to deserving undergraduate and graduate students or supporting departmental ambassadors to assist international students acclimate to WVU.
According to Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and professor of chemical engineering, Wen is somewhat of a legend at WVU, having joined the faculty in 1954.
“I have fond memories of Professor Wen, who was department chair when I was hired,” Cilento said. “He was a quiet man who led by example. He was quite an inspiration to me as a new faculty member and I am forever grateful for all he taught me. He was an internationally recognized scholar for his technical contributions in fluidization that led to many industrial advances in this field. This gift from Hung I Investments Co. Ltd. shows the admiration that persists for Professor Wen 35 years after his passing.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from National Taiwan University, Chen headed to West Virginia University, where he received a master’s in the discipline in 1968, conducting research on the optimization of fixed bed methanation processes.
Chen has founded 15 chemical companies. They include the flagship corporation Ho Tung Chemical Corp., which produces normal paraffin and linear alkyl benzene for use in chlorinated waxes, solvents and cleaning agents. In the early 1990s, Chen established the Jintung Chemical Corporation in China, which was the first and largest joint venture company between a Taiwanese Petrochemical Company and Sinopec at the time. Jintung then spawned 20 companies that specialize in fine chemicals and detergents. In 2001, Chen founded Vita Genomics, Inc., in Taipei, Taiwan, a genomics-based biotechnological and biopharmaceutical company that focuses on conducting pharmacogenomics research.
“Professor Wen attracted and inspired a very large number of graduate and post-doctoral students from all over the world, but especially from Taiwan and Japan,” said Rakesh Gupta, the George and Carolyn Berry Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “These students went on to distinguish themselves in both academia and industry, and they return to WVU periodically to respect the memory of Professor Wen. This gift will ensure that we continue to honor this great leader who was a teacher and mentor to so many.”
Hung I Investments Co. Ltd. contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.
The $1 billion fundraising effort by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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