Three prominent Texas A&M University former students from the College of Science have earned selection by the college for its highest alumni honor, induction into its Academy of Distinguished Former Students.

Dr. John M. Beckerdite, Class of 1976, of College Station, Texas; Dr. DonnaJean A. Fredeen, Class of 1986, of Lawrenceville, N.J.; and Dr. Jeffrey S. Morris, Class of 1997, of Houston, Texas, will be recognized Thursday (Mar. 30) for their achievements and contributions to their professions, community and causes as part of the college's Spring Recognition and Awards Dinner, to be held at Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station. The college also will recognize its current scholarship recipients along with all of the donors who have established new endowed gifts within the college's five departments during the past year.

The Academy was established in 1996 to recognize Aggies who have brought honor to their alma mater and professions through outstanding leadership in mathematics, statistics, the sciences and medicine. Beckerdite, Fredeen and Morris join a prestigious list of 54 previous honorees distinguished for their merit and innovative achievements.

Beckerdite received both his bachelor of science in chemistry in 1976 and Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1983 from Texas A&M, spending time during the years in between with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Food Protein Research and Development Group. He currently serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence within TEES' Commercialization and Entrepreneurship division, where he heads the Intellectual Property Group and aids in the evaluation of new technologies. In addition, he is a longtime member of and a past chair of the College of Science External Advisory and Development Council.

After earning his Ph.D., Beckerdite joined The Dow Chemical Company, holding a variety of leadership positions in research and development and participating in the commercialization of a number of new products during his 27-year career there. He also served as the Senior Intellectual Capital Leader for Dow's Performance Materials division. In his business roles, Beckerdite led R&D for the combined $3 billion amines and oxygenated solvents businesses. While serving in this capacity, he identified and championed a process-improvement program that de-bottlenecked a facility producing a key Dow product. In addition to significantly increasing the production rates for this sold-out product, this improvement eliminated the need for a significant, planned capital project.

In 2013, Beckerdite joined chemical-based self-heating products manufacturer Exothermix as their Chief Technology Officer. While at Exothermix, he outlined and implemented a strategy for protecting several core technologies in the areas of thermoformable polymers and selective management of gas transport across films. Beckerdite also is founder of P&N Technology Consulting, which provides intellectual property services in the natural sciences. Successful programs have included intellectual property carve-out for a $1 billion divesture, and analysis and recommendations for downstream opportunities in bio-based chemicals.

Beckerdite holds 12 patents across a variety of application spaces, including compositions of matter for novel thermoplastic polymers, a new synthetic route to epoxy resins, products for minimizing crack formation in concrete, and materials for shale inhibition in the drilling industry. He also has pending patent applications related to the use of thermoformable polymers for the medical industry.

"I think the first time I met John Beckerdite must have been in the early 2000s when I went to his office because I needed to understand something about the chemistry of epoxy resins," said Dr. Nancy Schrock, adjunct instructor in the University of West Florida Department of Chemistry and one of Beckerdite's former colleagues at Dow. "He was Dow Chemical's technical leader in epoxy resin research. I recall him drawing the chemistry on his white board like an organic chemistry professor -- except that this chemistry went beyond paper and textbooks and held the keys to a multi-billion-dollar business for Dow. I consider him one of my most distinguished colleagues from our days at Dow Chemical."

Fredeen received a Ph.D. in analytical/inorganic chemistry in 1986 from Texas A&M under the supervision of Professor of Chemistry David H. Russell after earning her bachelor of arts in chemistry in 1981 from McMurry College in Abilene, Texas. Since 2013, she has served as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Rider University, where she leads the development and implementation of the vision and long-range strategic planning for the university's Academic Affairs division, including Student Affairs.

During her Texas A&M days as a member of the Russell Laboratory from 1981 to 1985, Fredeen firmly established herself as the go-to person from whom all others sought advice and information while ultimately carrying out a challenging and highly creative research project that resulted in three articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the premier chemistry journal worldwide.

After completing her Ph.D., Fredeen joined Southern Connecticut State University in 1987 as an assistant professor of chemistry. Within four years, she was promoted and tenured, and then three years later, she became Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry. During her four-year tenure, she championed the effort to obtain ACS accreditation for the department's undergraduate program and instituted the first program assessment process while also doubling the size of the budget. In 1998, Fredeen was appointed Interim Dean and subsequently Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. She served 12 years as dean, overseeing 22 departments and five interdisciplinary programs, more than 600 full- and part-time faculty, and a budget of $40 million before moving to Rider in 2013.

Fredeen is renowned, both as a dean at SCSU and as a provost at Rider, as a model of leadership in STEM education on both institutional and individual levels. During her 30 years thus far in academia, she has demonstrated an unparalleled dedication to science education reform and leadership models in higher education, particularly those that address change leadership and student success.

"Dr. Fredeen's successful academic career and the impact of her work at the national level is clearly illustrated by her impressive curriculum vitae and the supporting letters provided by colleagues working both in academic administration and educational programs," Russell said. "She is an exceptionally qualified candidate, and her entire career from Ph.D. graduate student to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and leader at the national level in educational programs exemplifies the Aggie spirit."

Morris received both his master's of science and Ph.D. in statistics in 1997 and 2000, respectively, from Texas A&M under the direction of Distinguished Professor of Statistics Dr. Raymond J. Carroll and Professor of Statistics Naisyin Wang. Since 2000, Morris has been a professor of biostatistics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center since 2000. He was appointed as Del and Dennis McCarthy Distinguished Professor in 2016 and has served as Deputy Chair in the Department of Biostatistics since 2011.

An internationally recognized expert in biostatistics, Morris has collaborated with numerous investigators at MD Anderson and across the world who are involved in gastrointestinal cancer research, especially hepatocellular carcinoma and colorectal cancer, with multiple federal grants and senior author publications in cancer journals in these areas. These collaborations have included designing numerous clinical trials as well as collaborating on projects involving biomarker discovery, carcinogenesis, epidemiology, prevention, preclinical, and retrospective and prospective clinical studies -- some involving complex, high-dimensional genomics data.

As part of this work, Morris is co-developer of a new clinical prognostic staging system for hepatocellular carcinoma and also a co-author on the seminal Nature Medicine paper (Guinney et al. 2015) presenting consensus molecular subtypes of colorectal cancer that promise to redefine how colorectal cancer patients are classified and treated. Morris currently co-directs MD Anderson's Colorectal Cancer Moon Shot to provide a deep molecular characterization of these subtypes, to develop a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified clinical classifier to assign patients to these subtypes, and to discover and test novel therapeutic targets for these subtypes. In addition, he is actively involved in a joint graduate program in statistics between MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Texas A&M College of Science.

Thus far in his relatively young career, Morris' many prestigious honors and awards already include the Myrto Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lectureship at Harvard University, Fellow of American Statistical Association and the American Statistical Association Noether Young Investigator Award, as well as Texas A&M Statistics' 2009 H.O. Hartley Award. His exemplary expertise and exceptional leadership have helped paved the way for many statistical breakthroughs contributing across multiple scientific disciplines, industries and areas, including health sciences research.

"Jeff has achieved international stature in recognition of his outstanding contributions to statistical methodological research, to statistical practice, and to the profession," said Dr. Marie Davidian, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Statistics at NC State University. "His record is most impressive for both the breadth of problems he has tackled and the depth and innovation he has brought to bear on those problems. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities in a number of areas, including functional data analysis, microarray analysis and proteomics. He is truly one of the exceptional talents of our discipline, and his accomplished career makes him an inspiring role model for junior researchers in the field."

Members of the Academy receive a commemorative award and have their names inscribed on a perpetual plaque in the College of Science's Dean's Office.

For more information on the Academy and its previous inductees, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/giving/adfs.php.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. John M. Beckerdite '76

  • Dr. DonnaJean A. Fredeen '86

    (Credit: Rider University.)

  • Dr. Jeffrey S. Morris '97

    (Credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center / Eric Kayne.)

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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