Gleeson named first Renken Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at ISU

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's first named professorship in materials science and engineering might lead to safer jet engines.

The Alan and Julie Renken Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering was presented to Brian Gleeson, an Iowa State professor of materials science and engineering, during installation ceremonies on Friday, April 28.

Gleeson said the professorship will help support his work to develop new alloys and coatings that can withstand high temperatures. The professorship will also support student training, scientific advancement and patents that could be licensed to industry.

Gleeson leads a research team that won a prestigious 2005 R&D 100 Award for developing coating compositions made from a platinum-modified, nickel and aluminum alloy that help turbine blades resist the heat of jet engines.

"I am truly humbled and honored by being selected as the first recipient of the Alan and Julie Renken Professorship," Gleeson said. "The funds generously provided by Al and Julie Renken in association with this professorship will allow me the opportunity to explore ideas that may have been left in the 'if-only' basket. This is a luxury that I will not only treasure, but it is also something that I will take very seriously."

Alan Renken grew up on a northwest Iowa farm and graduated from Iowa State in 1967 with a degree in engineering operations. He took a job at Alcoa's Davenport facility and worked 36 years for the company, moving up to posts as company vice president and president of primary metals. He retired from Alcoa in 2003. The Renkens divide their time between Naples, Fla., and Okoboji, Iowa.

Mufit Akinc, professor and chair of materials science and engineering, said the Renken commitment will be a big boost to the department as it celebrates its centennial this year.

"This is something that I've been waiting to have for so long," Akinc said. "It's like a dream come true."

Akinc said named professorships help retain the best faculty and advance their research.

In the case of the Renken Professorship, he said the commitment will provide extra funding for Gleeson's work to protect materials at high temperatures from degradation. One of the benefits for travelers around the world could be jet engines that last longer and are more reliable.

Endowed faculty positions allow Iowa State and the College of Engineering to recruit and retain world-class leaders by providing the highest level of faculty recognition. Endowed positions help support course development, graduate assistants, laboratory equipment, salary enhancements, professional development and research projects. These opportunities ultimately enhance course and curriculum development, which improves the educational experience for students.