Lehigh University
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In memoriam: William R. Hencke, adjunct professor of chemical engineering

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 15, at 2 p.m. at Luther Crest in Crest Hall, 800 Hausman Road, Allentown.

After he retired from Texaco, Hencke helped the chemical engineering department rebuild its undergraduate labs, manage liaison programs for the Center for Chemical Process Modeling and Control, and teach professional development courses.

He also served as chairman of the national professional development committee of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where he started workshops on writing cover letters and interviewing skills.

In 2000, AIChE honored Hencke with its coveted F.J. and Dorothy Van Antwerpen Award for contributions to the chemical engineering profession and service to AIChE.

“Bill Hencke was very friendly, very supportive of the chemical engineering department, and an expert in the area of career preparation,” said Fred Stein, retired professor of chemical engineering and former associate chairman of the department.

“His service was very useful to the department and to our students.”

Helping students launch their careers

Hencke, who also conducted career-related workshops for the Electrochemical Society, said in an interview in 2000 that he had advised graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral researchers, foreign engineers looking to find employment in the United States, and practicing engineers.

“I always tell students that the purpose of a resume is to get an interview, not a job,” Hencke said at the time. “That’s a key difference. Once you have secured an interview, you should make a list and answer these questions: who are you, what are you good at, what do you like, what do you hate. Don’t show the list to anyone.

“Then find out about the company you’re applying at—what does it make, what does it need. Read its annual report. Find out what technical journals the company’s researchers are publishing in. All of this helps you focus on what you have to sell, and that’s important, because at the interview you are a salesman.”

In 38 years with Texaco, Hencke worked in New York, California, and Texas as a research engineer. He helped the company develop the world’s first continuous manufacturing method for making grease, and earned 10 U.S. patents, mostly for innovations involving lubricating grease.

Hencke was active in local AIChE chapters for most of his professional life. After retiring from Texaco in 1986, he attended each of AIChE’s semi-annual meetings at his own expense.

“Isn’t it wonderful to live in a country where you can do this?” he said in 2000. “I love what I’m doing.”

Hencke was also active with the Boy Scouts for almost 50 years.

During World War II, Hencke served as a lieutenant with the U.S. Navy.

He is survived by his wife, Edith; a sister, Ruth Mullaney; sons Richard, Randy and James; a daughter, Judy Houston; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Friday, May 14, 2004

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