Engineering News

Professor Emeritus William Brazelton Passes Away

Brazelton served as a professor for 40 years and associate dean for 29

William Brazelton, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and a former associate dean at the McCormick School of Engineering, passed away at age 97 on January 8, 2019. He was a member of Northwestern’s faculty for 40 years and served as associate dean for 29.

A native of Danville, Illinois, Brazelton arrived to Northwestern as a first-year student in 1939, the start of more than five decades at the University as a student, professor, and member of Northwestern Engineering’s leadership team. He received his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from Northwestern, and joined the school’s faculty as an instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1947.

William BrazeltonBrazelton’s research interests were in petroleum catalysis, heat transfer in fluidized systems, and mass transfer operations. As a professor of chemical engineering, he taught undergraduate and graduate students. He also shared his expertise with industry and academia as a consultant, working with companies like Abbott Laboratories, United Conveyor Corporation, and Meinhardt Chemical Co., as well as schools including the University of South Dakota, University of Tulsa, and Michigan Technological University.

After serving as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1956-57, Brazelton became associate dean of the engineering school beginning in 1962, a position he held until he retired from Northwestern in 1991. His tenure as associate dean was noted for helping build and maintain a strong minority and female student body studying engineering at Northwestern. He also supported the formation of Northwestern’s student chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

In 1986, Brazelton was celebrated for his work with the American Society of Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Vincent Bendix Minorities in Engineering Award for “outstanding achievement by an engineering educator to increase participation of minorities and/or women in engineering.”

“It almost goes without saying that his steadfast promotion of the program for minorities has established a remarkable degree of trust and close support between him and the minority students,” Brazelton’s Bendix Award nomination read. “This is true of Bill Brazelton and the undergraduates at Northwestern in general: He is rightly regarded as carrying the undergraduate engineering program on his shoulders in the most thoughtful, personal, and professional way.”

Brazelton’s other honors include membership in Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi, as well as being named to the Northwestern Faculty Honor Roll. He was also a member of ASEE, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society, Society for History of Technology, and Society of Industrial Archeology.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 26 at 10 a.m. at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 304 E. Palatine Road, Prospect Heights. Lunch will follow the service at Giacomo’s, 740 N. Wolf Road, Des Plaines.