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James R. Fair

by Susan J. Ainsworth
December 13, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 50

James R. Fair, the McKetta Centennial Energy Chair Emeritus in Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, died after a short illness on Oct. 11, a few days before his 90th birthday.

Born in Charleston, Mo., Fair received a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and an M.S. degree from the University of Michigan. He completed a Ph.D. at UT Austin in 1955.

During World War II, Fair was involved with the government’s high explosives and synthetic rubber programs. He began his career in industry, working at Shell Development and Monsanto for 34 years before joining the UT Austin faculty in 1979. He held UT Austin’s Ernest & Virginia Cockrell Chair from 1979 until 1985, when he was named the McKetta Centennial Energy Chair.

Fair had a wealth of experience in process engineering and design and diagnostic techniques and founded the university’s separations research program, which he headed from 1982 to 1996. He was the author or coauthor of seven books and more than 200 technical articles and book chapters.

Fair was a former director and a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); a former president of James R. Fair Inc.; and a former vice president of Fractionation Research. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1958.

He was honored with numerous awards, including several from AIChE. He also received the ACS Award in Separations Science & Technology, the Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award from UT Austin, and the Malcolm Pruitt Award from the Council for Chemical Research.

An avid book collector, Fair also conducted research on railroad history, which he published in numerous articles and two books. He was a member of University Presbyterian Church, in Austin.

Fair is survived by his wife of 61 years, Merle; two sons, James R. III and Richard; and six grandchildren. His daughter, Elizabeth Fair Drews, died earlier this year.



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