Archival photo of Professor Alvin Weiss helping a student

Professor Alvin Weiss and a student in his lab.

Gratitude and Giving Back

It’s not uncommon for individuals to hold lifelong feelings of gratitude for a special teacher. But for Randall D. Partridge ’72, the relationship he formed with Professor Alvin Weiss was so impactful he established a research fund in Weiss’s honor. The Randall D. Partridge ’72 Endowed Research Fund Honoring Professor Alvin H. Weiss will help WPI chemical engineering students follow their research dreams as he was able to do while at WPI and well beyond.

Funding research at WPI is a powerful testament to the importance of the university’s academic and research enterprise. And for Partridge, it was the perfect way to recognize the role Professor Weiss played in his life—while also giving back for all he was given. “Over the years I’ve benefited greatly not only from the time I spent at WPI, but also from working with and knowing many professors and WPI graduates spanning many years. I’m sure they feel the same as I do, that we all got a great education, both academically and professionally. I believe it’s important to give back so that the students of today and tomorrow have access to the benefits we all received when attending WPI.”

I believe it’s important to give back so that the students of today and tomorrow have access to the benefits we all received when attending WPI.

Chemical Engineering Professor and Department Head Susan Roberts is grateful for the significant impact this gift will have on the Chemical Engineering Department. “Alvin Weiss was an incredible educator who both taught and inspired the chemical engineering students who were lucky to work with him. The endowed fund in his name will help our undergraduate students complete innovative and transformative research projects in diverse areas such as alternative energy, environmental sustainability, synthetic biology and biotechnology, and medical nanoscience.”

Partridge, who was recently recognized by the WPI Alumni Association with the Robert H. Goddard Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement, became interested in chemistry and engineering at an early age. With the encouragement of his parents, he set up a lab in his home, competed in local science fairs, and began to learn about scientific research. When it came time for Partridge to look at colleges, one of his childhood neighbors, a WPI alumnus, suggested he consider “Tech.” He was impressed by the then-new Goddard Hall facility for chemistry and chemical engineering and the campus in general, and describes being very happy when his WPI letter of acceptance arrived.

Reflecting on his university experience, Partridge says, “I totally enjoyed my time at WPI, including the Saturday morning classes in math, physics, and chemistry, followed by ROTC drills we all endured in 1968 and 1969. Not only did I receive a great education in chemical engineering, but I was able to develop my research and interpersonal abilities, both of which have served me exceptionally well over the years.”

What remains with Partridge the most from his time as a student is the relationship he formed with Weiss. “Professor Weiss was truly my mentor and friend for many years. I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Professor Weiss on his research projects, starting in my freshman year and continuing through postgraduate participation in the Joint US-USSR Collaboration in Chemical Catalysis. He encouraged my research activities while holding me to a high standard, all the while providing me with opportunities few students receive, including setting up and operating the new mass spectrometry laboratory at WPI. We planned, researched, and published together, while he made me feel a part of his group and family.”

Upon graduating from WPI in 1972, Partridge began his nearly 50-year career with Mobil Research and Development Corporation and later ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. Among his remarkable professional accomplishments and achievements, Partridge’s career efforts led to more than 65 U.S. patents, numerous publications and presentations, and a unique opportunity to travel and contribute to the world of science and technology.

As a leader, consultant, and mentor on various separation, process, and catalytic technologies, Partridge offers gratitude to his alma mater for the role it played in his successful career. “The education I received at WPI was top-notch. Learning the nuances of chemistry, thermodynamics, mass and heat transfer, and other chemical engineering basics were key in my successful research career with ExxonMobil. Learning how to plan and conduct experiments, and to present the results clearly and concisely—both in writing and orally—were equally key.”

Following his return to the Hill after many years for his 50th Reunion, Partridge shared, “I couldn’t help but notice how much nicer the campus is now than when we attended starting in 1968. The new research and project facilities are outstanding, and it’s obvious the students make good use of them. I’m especially excited to know that the traditions of coupling strong academics with project work continues at WPI, and my hope for the Randall D. Partridge ’72 Endowed Research Fund Honoring Professor Alvin H. Weiss is that it will help WPI’s chemical engineering students to follow their research dreams, while honoring my old professor, Alvin H. Weiss, who made it possible for me to do the same.”

Reader Comments


  1. M
    Mary (Berry) De Bonte ‘98

    I’m so excited to read this! I’ve had special relationships with my high school teachers and continue to be friends with them, so i know how special it is to have such a relationship with a mentor. And it’s a chemical engineering professor, too. This makes me very happy.

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