Jim graduated from Iowa State with a degree in chemical engineering in 1964. He received his Sc.D. from MIT in the same discipline in 1969, and then immediately joined the University of Delaware as an assistant professor of chemical engineering. He was instrumental in founding the university’s Center for Catalytic Science and Technology, attracting more than $800,000 in new research funding in its first year. Together with Professor Bruce Gates, Jim established one of the first collaborative industry –academic centers of its kind. He served as its first director. By 1980, the Center listed 23 companies as members and had a total research budget of $1.8 million. Jim was promoted to full professor in Delaware’s Department of Chemical Engineering in 1978.
In 1981, Jim moved to Mobil Oil Corporation’s Central Research Laboratory in Princeton, NJ as manager of CRL’s catalyst section. He advanced in management at Mobil, holding positions of Division Manger of Process R&D and Vice President of Planning for Research and Engineering. In 1997, he was appointed Vice President for Technology.
With the merger of Mobil and Exxon in 1999, Jim became Manager of Planning and Portfolio Analysis for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. He retired from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company in 2004.
In recognition of his contributions to catalysis and reaction engineering research and commercialization of catalytic processes, Jim was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1998. In 2001 he was awarded the Marston Medal, Iowa State University’s highest honor for a graduate from its College of Engineering. From 2006 to 2010 Jim was member of 4 significant National Research Council studies on Transitions in Transportation, which helped define a strategy for the US’s energy future. He served as a visiting scientist for MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment from 2004 until 2007, where he was the Executive Director of the MIT Future of Coal study.
At the time of his death, he was an affiliate professor, a member of the advisory board for Iowa State University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and a member of the Technical Advisory Board for the China National Institute for Clean and Low-Carbon Fuels. He was also a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Rive Technology and a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C.
In his free time, he enjoyed sailing and gardening. Jim is survived by his wife of 32 years, Isabelle (McGregor) Katzer; his mother, Velma Sheller; son, Robert James, MD (Jenni) Katzer, and granddaughter, Autumn Elizabeth Katzer; daughter, Anne Louise Katzer; brothers, Wayne Katzer and Ken (Sharon) Katzer; and sister, JoAnn Katzer.
(Contributed by Thomas Degnan, Roland H. Heck and Jose Santiesteban)