University of Rochester

Memorial Service Set for G.J. Su, Who Taught Chemical Engineering

September 4, 1996

Gouq-Jen Su, an internationally known authority on the physical properties of different kinds of glass, and on the thermodynamic properties of gases, died July 31, 1996 at the age of 88 in Ann Arbor, MI. There will be a memorial service for him at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21 in the Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester, where Prof. Su taught chemical engineering from 1947 until his retirement in 1974.

"Gene Su was perhaps the most courteous man ever to pass through this institution," said long-time colleague John R. Ferron, professor emeritus of chemical engineering. "When I joined the University as chair of the department in 1969, Gene was a mentor; he helped me to get to know the institution. After his retirement, when I'd be at professional meetings, people continued to ask about him. They remembered him as a very effective teacher and good friend."

"Gene Su was a valued colleague and trusted advisor," said John C. Friedly, who served with Su on the chemical engineering faculty for many years before recently accepting an appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "He was one of only three faculty in the department for his first 15 years, and he carried the lion's share of the research load. He was a pioneer in thermodynamics research, and his early interest in the properties of glassy materials anticipated by more than a quarter of a century the chemical engineering community's current interest in optics materials."

Su supervised many doctoral students, some of whom have established substantial reputations themselves in chemical engineering. After retirement, Prof. Su continued to teach undergraduate courses, which students rated highly.

Born in Fukien, China in 1908, Su graduated from Tsinghua University in 1931 and received a highly competitive fellowship to attend graduate school in the United States. He received his doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1937, and then returned to China to teach at Tsinghua University.

During World War II, he established a factory to process sugar cane into molasses and then alcohol to make gasohol, used by U.S. Army trucks on the Burma Road.

In 1945, he returned to the U.S. He wrote six papers on thermodynamics and formulated the Su equation cited in many physical chemistry textbooks. In 1947, he joined the faculty of the University. He was named a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield, England in 1965, and from 1974-76, he accepted a visiting appointment at Tsinghua University, which had been reestablished in Taiwan.

Su was a member of Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, the American Chemical Society, and he was a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He received an achievement award from the Chinese American Engineers and Scientists Association of Southern California.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Shou-Tsung Chiao of Ann Arbor, MI; children Irene So of Rumson, NJ; Tina Cooper of Ramsey, NJ; and Eugene Su of Ann Arbor, MI; and by six grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, friends willing may contribute to the G.J. Su Scholarship Fund administered by the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Rochester, or to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.