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Shreve, Randolph Norris (1885-1975) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Shreve, Randolph Norris (1885-1975)
Variant Name: Shreve, R. Norris


Historical Note:

Randolph Norris Shreve was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 9, 1885 and was educated in a private grade school there and in Ferguson High School, Ferguson, Missouri. After graduation from high school, he went to work for Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis as a laboratory boy. He made arrangements to borrow money from officials of the Mallickrodt Chemical Works to add to his savings so that he could attend Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B., summa cum laudein three years - a remarkable record according to the Boston Transcript of June 27, 1907.

After graduation he was in charge of the manufacturing of chemicals for Mallinckrodt Chemical Works from 1907 to 1911. After leaving St. Louis, he worked for Lamar Chemical Works, Newark, New Jersey, 1911-15; he was then associated with the Arden, Orth and Hastings Corporation, New Jersey; Shreve Chemical Company, Jersey City, New Jersey, and Calco Chemical Company at Bound Book, New Jersey. After 1919 he became a successful chemical engineering consultant, which activity continued through the major portion of his life. He became associated with Purdue University in 1930.

In 1935, he married Eleanor Burns Mitchell (she died on November 3 1967). Norris and Eleanor, through a gift of securities and properties, established in the Purdue Research Foundation a trust fund to endow a Shreve Professorship of Organic Technology in the School of Chemical Engineering.

In recognition of Eleanor Burns Shreve as an educator, world traveler, musician, and constructive activist, a large residence hall at Purdue University was named for her. The fact that Shreve Residence Hall is assigned coeducationally is most appropriate, as both she and Norris demonstrated their genuine interest in students, both in and out of the classroom.

After joining the faculty at Purdue University in 1930, Professor Shreve rapidly rose through the ranks and became head of the School of Chemical Engineering in 1947 and served until 1951, when he assumed the duties of directing the Purdue-Taiwan Engineering Project. This major effort culminated in the creation of Taiwan's Cheng Kung University. A report covering this activity has been published. He was also a member of the American mission in the Philippines; the object was to improve the economy of that country. In 1961 he was named professor emeritus. At the time of his retirement he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from Purdue University. In 1970 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the China Academy in Formosa.

Professor Shreve played a major role in planning the Chemical and Mettallurgical Building at Purdue University. The logo over the main entrance to the building was designed by Professor Shreve. This design was incorporated into a set of beautiful cuff links which were later presented to him.

His publications include over 75 technical articles and he is inventor or co-inventor of five patents. He has written or contributed to several books. These include "Dyes Classified by Intermediates," "Greensand Bibliography," and a brochure on "Zeolite Water Softeners," "Intermediate Readings in Chemical German," with John T. Fotos and "Advanced Readings in German and Technical German," also with Fotos. His greatest book success was the book of "Chemical Process Industries" which was published in 1945 and which sold between 40,000 and 50,000 copies. It has since been translated into many foreign tongues. The fourth edition of this famous book was co-authored by one of his former students, Dr. Joseph A. Brink, chairman, Department of Chemical Engineering, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington.

As an avocation, Professor Shreve collected jade, gems, and minerals and is well-known in this field. He gave the jade collection to the Indianapolis Art Museum and the gem collection to the Purdue University.

In 1968 he married Irene Mary Strieby in the Washington Cathedral in the nation's capitol. She had served as his editorial assistant in connection with his book, "Chemical Process Industries." She had been chief librarian and archivist for the Eli Lilly Company in Indianapolis and president of the Special Libraries Association (1947-1948) among other activities. She was also author of many professional papers.

Professor Shreve was responsible for assuming the financial assistance to assure many young men and women a university education.

Professor Shreve also recognized the importance of the teacher education in the education of students. He and Eleanor established a trust for the annual award to an outstanding teacher in chemical engineering.

As president of the Purdue Club of Retired Personnel, Professor Shreve, and his executive committee presented to the president of Purdue University, on April 1, 1968, a monumental report of 57 pages entitled, "A Report of Progress, Some Observations of University Policies, Programs and Practices Having to do With Their Retirees' Well-being and Continued Usefullness."

His professional interests have led to many years of activity in the American Chemical Society, and the Division of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry of this organization awarded Professor Shreve the Scroll of Honor. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists; member, the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists; a lifetime member of the Cheists Club (New York); a registered engineer in Indiana; member of Alpha Chi Sigma, the Society of Cincinnati, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Omega Chi Epsilon, and President of the Harvard Club of New Jersey (1925-1926).

Professor Randolph Norris Shreve passed away February 17, 1975 and internment was in Bellafontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.

Sources: Memorial resolution for Randolph Norris Shreve, located in his faculty folder.
Note Author: Mary A. Sego





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