In Memoriam: James R. Katzer (1941–2012)

James Robert Katzer

James Robert Katzer

James Robert Katzer, for­mer pro­fes­sor of chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing and vice-pres­i­dent of tech­nol­o­gy for Mobil Oil Cor­po­ra­tion, died in Mar­shall­town, IA on Novem­ber 2, 2012. He was 71. Katzer was inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed for his exper­tise and major con­tri­bu­tions to ener­gy tech­nolo­gies and pol­i­cy. Jim Katzer built a career as a high­ly respect­ed researcher and man­ag­er in the areas of cat­alyt­ic sci­ence and in the analy­sis of tech­ni­cal issues relat­ed to the pro­duc­tion of high qual­i­ty fuels. Jim was a co-author, along with George C. A. Schuit and Bruce C. Gates of The Chem­istry of Cat­alyt­ic Process­es, pub­lished by McGraw Hill in 1978. Dur­ing his career, he authored or co-authored more than 80 tech­ni­cal arti­cles and 6 U.S. Patents.

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)