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Texas A&M nuclear science pioneer Richard E. Wainerdi, P.E., Ph.D. (Credit: Gary Fountain, Houston Chronicle.)

COLLEGE STATION --

On Friday, October 9, the Center for Chemical Characterization and Analysis (CCCA) and the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University will celebrate the official unveiling and dedication of a commemorative display honoring former Texas A&M administrator and Texas Medical Center President Emeritus Richard E. Wainerdi, P.E., Ph.D.

The 4:30 p.m. ceremony will be held in the foyer of the H.C. Heldenfels Hall, where the permanent exhibit celebrating Wainerdi and his many achievements during his 20-year Texas A&M tenure, is located.

Wainerdi, a global pioneer in neutron activation research and a founding member of the American Nuclear Society, retired in 2012 after 28 years as chief executive officer, chief operating officer and president of the Texas Medical Center in Houston -- a transformational period in which the organization tripled in size to become the world's largest medical center. He also spent 20 years at Texas A&M from 1957 to 1977 and was instrumental in both scientific and academic arenas as a professor of nuclear, petroleum and chemical engineering and subsequently assistant (1971-1974) and associate vice president for academic affairs (1974-1977).

While at Texas A&M, Wainerdi founded the Nuclear Science Center, the Activation Analysis Research Laboratory (predecessor to the CCCA), the German Synfuels Technology Retrieval Program, the Center for Energy and Mineral Resources and a number of other programs. As a result of his efforts, Texas A&M received funding from NASA for the construction of the Olin E. Teague Research Center. Wainerdi also played a key role in starting the Cyclotron Institute and the College of Medicine, according to Texas A&M chemist and CCCA Director Emile A. Schweikert.

"Dick Wainerdi is clearly an accomplished and distinguished leader, but he is also a gifted scientist," said Schweikert, who will serve as the master of ceremonies for Friday's event. "His work in nuclear and radioanalytical chemistry was recognized for its significant and broad impact with the International George Hevesy Medal."

After first meeting Wainerdi in 1965 on a visit to his laboratory, Schweikert says he then joined Wainerdi's lab in September 1966, working with him until he left Texas A&M in 1977. He contacted Wainerdi shortly after he announced his medical center retirement to convey his interest in having some of Wainerdi's vast collection of career memorabilia within the CCCA, a component of Texas A&M Chemistry that provides state-of-the-art capabilities for inorganic analysis and structural characterization. While most of Wainerdi's books and archival records were donated to Sterling C. Evans Library, Schweikert said he wanted to find a way to honor Wainerdi's legacy and his many contributions to Texas A&M's history by educating current and future students and campus visitors about Wainerdi's past and its relevance across generations.

Wainerdi, 82, came to the Texas Medical Center in 1984 after previously retiring from Gulf Oil Corp., where he served as president of the worldwide research division, Gulf Research & Development Co. Prior to that, he was senior vice president and director of research and development at 3D/International, a Houston design and engineering firm, from 1977 to 1982. He earned his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Oklahoma and master's and doctoral degrees in petroleum and natural gas engineering from Pennsylvania State University. He is also a graduate of the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology and holds a U.S. patent for fluid flow meter.

Although officially retired, Wainerdi continues to consult on a variety of projects and is active in both professional and community circles. He serves as director of the Greater Houston Partnership and on a plethora of boards, councils and committees. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at several Texas institutions, including the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and is a Board of Visitors member for both the M.D. Anderson University Cancer Foundation and the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering. In addition to the American Nuclear Society, Wainerdi is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Tau, Phi Epsilon Tau, Pi Tau Sigma, Omicron Kappa Upsilon and the Philosophical Society of Texas.

For more information about Wainerdi or Friday's dedication ceremony, please contact Sherry Melton in the Texas A&M Center for Chemical Characterization and Analysis at (979) 845-2341.

Browse additional Wainerdi research-related images, including photographs of Activation Analysis Research Laboratory visits from 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Sir John Cockcroft and former Texas Governor and U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, courtesy of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.

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Not able to make it to the Texas A&M campus or Heldenfels anytime soon? See photographs of the display online via the Texas A&M Science Flickr archive.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Emile A. Schweikert, (979) 845-2341 or schweikert@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Wainerdi, working in his Texas A&M laboratory back in the day. (Credit: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University.)

  • 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Sir John Cockcroft (right), testing out the controls in Wainerdi's Activation Analysis Research Laboratory under Wainerdi's watchful eye during a visit to Texas A&M University in the 1960s. (Credit: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University.)

  • (Credit: Gary Fountain, Houston Chronicle.)

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