Irving Wender received his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the City College of New York in 1936, followed by an MS in chemistry at Columbia University (which was interrupted by WWII during which he worked on the Manhattan Project), and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, studying the kinetics and mechanism of homogeneously catalyzed hydroformylation (oxo) reactions. This was followed by an illustrious career, first in fundamental, then in applied research, as Project Coordinator, then Research Director, and finally as Director of the Pittsburgh Energy Research Center, U.S. Bureau of Mines. Subsequently, he was Special Advisor to the Program Director, Fossil Energy (FE), at the Department of Energy (DOE), Special Assistant to the Secretary of Fossil Energy, and finally Director, Office of Advanced Research and Technology Development, FE, DOE, in Washington, DC.
In 1981, he accepted a position as Research Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and in 1994, was named Distinguished University Research Professor of Engineering.
Dr. Wender authored over 200 papers (including eight in Nature and two in Science), edited five books and was awarded eleven patents. Among his numerous awards and honors are: the inaugural H.H. Storch Award in Fuel Science in 1964, for distinguished contributions to the science and utilization of coal; the Pittsburgh Award of the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to chemistry in 1968; the K.K. Kelley Award of the Department of Interior for contributions to coal chemistry and catalysis in 1969; and the American Chemical Society Award in Petroleum Chemistry and the Pittsburgh Catalysis Society Award in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of catalysis, both in 1982. In November 1988, he became the first recipient of the Homer H. Lowry Award, presented by the Secretary of Energy in Washington, DC, “in recognition of advancing fossil energy technology through highly innovative research on catalytic conversion of syngas to fuels and chemicals, coal liquefaction and decisive guidance and inspirational leadership in shaping research programs in government, academia and industry.”
As the most fitting tribute, Dr. Wender was recognized by his colleagues on his 100th birthday, June 19, 2015, on the final day of the NAM24 conference, which was hosted by the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society in Pittsburgh and for which he served as honorary chair.
On behalf of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society (PCCS), I am delighted to announce the Irving Wender Award for Excellence in Catalysis. The award was created by PCCS to commemorate and celebrate the many contributions and deep impact of Irving Wender on our community as an eminent researcher, teacher, mentor, and leader. The Irving Wender award will be given biannually to an outstanding researcher in the catalysis field. The recipient must reside within the membership countries of the North American Catalysis Society (but does not need to be a member). The award comes with an honorarium of $1,000 plus travel expenses to give the Wender award lecture at the next PCCS meeting. Call for nominations will be issued in the fall of the year preceding the award and will be announced through PCCS and NACS emails, with further details posted at the webpage of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society.
At the same time, we are happy to announce Dr. Donna Blackmond as the inaugural Irving Wender awardee. PCCS could not have wished for a more perfect inaugural Wender awardee: Dr. Blackmond is world-renowned for her research focusing on mechanistic aspects of the synthesis of complex organic molecules by catalytic routes, particularly asymmetric catalysis with application in pharmaceutical processes. Following an international career that started at the University of Pittsburgh and included research and faculty positions at Merck, the Max-Planck-Society in Germany, and the Universities of Essen (Germany), Hull (UK), and Imperial College (UK), she now holds a faculty position at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Dr. Blackmond has been the recipient of numerous prior awards, including the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis of the North American Catalysis Society (2001) and elections to the National Academy of Engineering (2013) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016). Significantly, Irving Wender was a close collaborator and mentor of Donna’s during the start of her independent research career, and remained a life-long friend. Dr. Blackmond will receive the Irving Wender award at the annual meeting of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society in Pittsburgh on June 8th, 2017, where she will also give the inaugural Wender award lecture.
Nickolas DeCecco Professor, University of Pittsburgh
Director, Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society
PCCS 2017 meeting will feature an invited talk from Dr. David W. Flaherty from the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Flaherty’s group is focused on developing “greener” alternatives for existing chemical processes. They identify specific problems in large scale catalytic processes such as low selectivities, use of environmentally harmful chemicals or diminishing petroleum reserves and come up with simple, energy efficient solutions. Their ultimate goal is to create highly selective catalysts or the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible process for a specific catalytic reaction. You can read more about Dr. Flaherty’s research on Flaherty Research Group websites here and here.