Paul Werler, 2011 ChE Alumni Award Winner
Paul Werler (BSE 1947, MSE 1948) grew up in Buffalo, NY during the Great Depression. He came to Michigan in 1942 to study chemical engineering and, because the country had recently entered WWII, he also enrolled in the Naval ROTC program. By 1943, Paul and the other cadets on campus were put on active duty, and West Quad became their barracks and home for next two years. It was a unique experience for the students to combine engineering and naval science courses and military life. Calisthenics started early every morning, and every night the doors closed at 9 p.m., and lights were out at 10 p.m. sharp! Paul says he spent many nights under his bed covers using a flashlight to complete his homework assignments. The group of engineering cadets Paul met at Michigan formed a special bond of friendship that continues today, as evidenced by their high turnout at class reunions.
Following his commissioning in 1945 and one year of naval duty, he returned to complete his ChE degree in 1947, and an advanced degree in protective coating technology in 1948. His first job after graduation was with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
After 15 years in technical, marketing, and management positions, Paul left to partner with a customer in a venture to provide starch-based products to the oil & gas drilling industry. The business prospered during the 1970s but experienced a steep decline in the mid-1980s. To diversify, he and his partner created several starch-based polymers for use as additives in adhesives, textiles, and coatings. With their knowledge of the drilling industry they were able to capitalize on new technologies emerging in the 1990s. By collaborating with their major customers, they were able to develop polymers with special functionalities. Today Paul’s company, Chemstar, is recognized as the world’s leading producer of starch-based polymers. His son, James, is serving as the president of the company.
Paul and his wife have been married for almost 60 years and have five children. One of their daughters received her master’s degree in the School of Public Health, at Michigan and is on the faculty at Boston University. While still active at Chemstar, Paul and his wife enjoy traveling and spending time at their lake cabin in Wisconsin and condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He says his “continuing contributions to the University of Michigan are based on his strong belief that America must increase technical talent to compete in the emerging industrial world.”
Paul received the 2011 Chemical Engineering Alumni Society Award during Michigan Homecoming Weekend.