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Levi Thompson returns to his alma mater as dean of engineering

His appointment at University of Delaware begins October 1, 2018| Short Read
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IMAGE:  Levi T. Thompson, Richard E. Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications and Marketing

Levi T. Thompson, the Richard E. Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, was appointed dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering last fall.

“Though we are saddened to see him go after 30 years on the faculty at Michigan, we are thrilled for Levi and his family on this exciting new chapter in their lives, and wish them the very best in their transition and beyond,” says Sharon Glotzer, Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering.

Thompson received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. He went on to earn two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in chemical engineering and nuclear engineering, as well as his doctorate in chemical engineering.

Thompson joined the department as an assistant professor in 1988 and has been the Richard E. Balzhiser Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering since 2005. He is also a professor of mechanical engineering. He served as associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Engineering from 2001 through 2005, during which the College experienced significant increases in diversity, student retention and undergraduate enrollment, as well as an improved ranking.

He was director of the Hydrogen Energy Technology Laboratory and director of the Michigan-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. He has received numerous awards, including the University of Delaware Outstanding Alumnus award in 2006, a Michiganian of the Year award in 2006, an Engineering Society of Detroit Gold Award in 2007, the NSF Presidential Young Investigator award in 1991, and the Dow Chemical Good Teaching award in 1990.

This is a bittersweet moment, as I’m excited about the opportunity to help lead University of Delaware Engineering, I know I will also miss my friends and colleagues at Michigan Engineering. Levi T. Thompson

A constant in his career as an educator has been his efforts to enhance the educational environment for students, particularly underrepresented minority (URM) students.  He has worked to increase the enrollment and improve the climate in higher education for them, initially by helping them to realize that there are other people who look like them who are doing what they want to do.  “I think Michigan has made tremendous progress in their efforts to make minority students feel more comfortable,” Thompson says.

Colleague Erdogan Gulari, Donald L. Katz Collegiate Professor, says, “Levi is a mentor extraordinaire, he produced scholars from very raw material and was the most effective and dedicated leader in bringing diversity to our student body.”

He is still in regular contact with most of his former graduate students. One of them, Jim Waldecker, says he is proud to be one of Levi’s students and remembers when he had Levi for an undergraduate class.  “While trying to argue back points on the 486 final, I made mention of the fact that he had just given me my first (and eventually, my only) grade below A- during my undergrad years, at which point Levi asked if I wanted to do research in his lab that summer. I did research for Levi that summer and eventually joined his group as a graduate student.”

Former department chair, Ron Larson, George Granger Brown Professor and A.H. White Distinguished University Professor, remarks, “Levi has been a wonderful colleague in the ChE department, showing a trademark sense of humor, along with a passion for the mission of the University.  Levi shows the talent and grace to be highly successful in endeavors at any level, and I expect him to be a very successful Dean of Engineering.”

In a note to his friends and colleagues at Michigan, Thompson writes: “My career as a chemical engineer started as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware but I grew into my profession at the University of Michigan as a graduate student, and later as a faculty member.

I met my wife of 30+ years here, our daughters were raised in Ann Arbor, and my youngest daughter is a rising senior at Michigan. The deep roots I have at the University and in the surrounding community form important parts of my foundation both personally and professionally.

It’s impossible to thank everyone that I should, but I want to first acknowledge all of my students, both graduate and undergraduate. I also want to thank a few colleagues without whom I would not be here; I thank Erdogan Gulari for his part in admitting me to the graduate program, Johannes Schwank for mentoring me during my graduate studies and Scott Fogler, who took a chance and hired me as an assistant professor.

This is a bittersweet moment, as I’m excited about the opportunity to help lead University of Delaware Engineering, I know I will also miss my friends and colleagues at Michigan Engineering. Thank you all for making the last 30+ years so wonderful. Go Blue!!”

The University of Delaware Office of Communications and Marketing contributed to this story.

Levi T. Thompson
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