Paul Wilhite, a 1959 B.S. graduate of Iowa State’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and a member of the department’s Hall of Fame, has passed away.
Wilhite had worked for the Kansas University (KU) School of Engineering beginning in 1969 and earned a highly regarded reputation as a leader in engineering research, higher education and the petroleum industry. He served as chair of the KU Chemical and Petroleum Engineering program from 1988-1996 and retired from the university in 2019 as Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.
After earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Northwestern University in 1962, Willhite began his career as a research scientist in the production research division of Continental Oil Company in Oklahoma, and was promoted to senior research scientist in 1967. He began his 50-year career at KU two years later as associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.
In 1974 he founded and co-directed the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project (TORP) at KU. The program was designed to acquaint Kansas and regional producers with the technical and economic potential of enhanced recovery methods for oil and gas fields that were affordable for independent operators.
Wilhite authored textbooks that remain the foundational work in petroleum engineering education. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2006, was an honorary member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and belonged to the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. He received several notable academic honors at KU and was influential in advancing techniques and facilities there to help educate future engineers. For more than 25 years he served as a program evaluator for ABET, which accredits post-secondary education programs in engineering and related fields nationally.
Wilhite is a past member and former chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering’s Advisory Council, a consortium of experts that help guide the department’s undergraduate and graduate curriculums. He was part of the department’s inaugural class of inductees to its Hall of Fame in 2013.
Memorial services will be held December 22. View Wilhite’s full obituary.