Alan Schriesheim

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Alan Schriesheim

March 8, 1930
Far Rockaway, Queens

New York, United States
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Citizenship United States

Polytechnic Institute of New York, Bachelor of Science in Chemistry 1951

Penn State University PhD in Chemistry 1954
Occupation Retired CEO and Director Emeritus of Argonne National Laboratories
Predecessor Walter Massey
Successor Dean E. Eastman
Spouse(s) Beatrice (wife deceased), 2 children – Laura Lyn and Robert A. Schriesheim

Dr. Alan Schriesheim, PhD is The Director Emeritus and the retired CEO[1] of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the U.S. Department of Energy's largest research centers.[2] In a January 2008 announcement issued by Penn State University upon the establishment of the Schriesheim Distinguished Graduate Fellowship, it was noted that "Schriesheim is an internationally acclaimed chemist and technology executive. With a career spanning 50 years in industry, academia, and government, Schriesheim was a pioneer in transforming large and highly complex research organizations to yield productive commercialized technology.[3][4]

Early Childhood and Education[edit]

Alan Schriesheim was born in 1930 in Far Rockaway (Queens), New York. He graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1948 where he played football.[5] Schriesheim graduated from Penn State in 1954 with a PhD in chemistry, having earned his bachelor's degree from The Polytechnic Institute of New York University (known then as Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute) in 1951. He was the first person in his family to attend college, his father had a 6th grade education and was a furntiture store manager.[6]

Career Summary[edit]

Schriesheim joined The National Bureau of Standards (renamed the National Institute of Standards and Technology) as a research chemist immediately after graduating with his PhD and worked there from 1954 to 1956. Schriesheim joined Exxon in 1956 and worked there for 27 years until 1982, rising through the organization to become general manager of Exxon Engineering and director of Exxon Corporate Research.[6] In 1983, he became director and CEO of the Argonne National Laboratory, while also holding a dual appointment as a Professor of Chemistry at The University of Chicago, retiring in 1996.[7] He was the first director of a major national laboratory to have an extensive industrial background.[8]

Schriesheim at Argonne 1984–1996: Years of Renewal at Argonne[edit]

This section is from Argonne's Official History.[8]

"In the early 1980s, Argonne's fate was very much in doubt. Devastating declines in funding, morale and staff had left the laboratory vulnerable and directionless. A special person was needed to reverse Argonne's fortunes – someone with the management skills to arrest the declines, with the vision to propel Argonne forward and the credibility needed to be heard and believed. Just when the gloom hung thickest, such a person emerged. Not only did he come to Argonne, he stayed—becoming the longest-serving director in the laboratory's history, retiring July 1, 1996.

With the demise of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project and cutbacks resulting from policy changes that occurred as a result of Ronald Reagan's election, morale at Argonne plummeted. The lab had just lost the competition for an electron accelerator. The laboratory was believed to be in imminent danger of closure. The need to refocus the lab's mission and to develop a new portfolio of initiatives was essential.

Alan Schriesheim, a research chemist and top executive at Exxon Research and Engineering Company, became the first industry executive to head a national laboratory. His appointment to direct Argonne signaled a new emphasis on strategic initiatives. Schriesheim was faced with three significant challenges: restructure the laboratory and undertake a campaign of fresh initiatives; increase funding and rebuild relations with Congress; and repair morale among a highly talented staff. He took a strategic approach, reorganizing the laboratory into "thematic" areas that brought projects together in more logical, interlocking groupings. He identified talented managers and established assistant directorships to run strategic divisions. He streamlined government relations and used his political savvy and Washington contacts to forge a strong relationship with Congress.

And he enlisted his wife, Beatrice, to help him with the critical morale-building effort. Schriesheim recalled the Argonne campus as "a grungy place " when he arrived in 1983. He asked his wife to get involved in the upgrade of the physical plant, believing it important for staff to take pride in their working environment. During the past decade, renovation projects have included the Freund Lodge, cafeteria and main auditorium. as well as numerous meeting rooms. The site was landscaped, and new signs ordered. The Visitors' Reception Center was erected. A much-needed child development center and program was put in place. Also, in order to enhance the sense of community, an Arts at Argonne program was initiated consisting of two elements: a chamber music series and a jazz and blues concert series.

Meanwhile, Schriesheim worked to increase funding for key programs: the Integral Fast Reactor, superconductivity, biology and biostructural science, environmental science and technology, and advanced computing among others. The lab's budget doubled and staff grew substantially as a result of the initiatives.

Another goal, to couple basic research with commercial development, was accomplished through various initiatives including (with Walter Massey, the previous lab director) the establishment of ARCH Development Corp.— a joint venture with the University of Chicago. Most importantly, the strategic initiative thrust was rewarded when Argonne was chosen as the site of the Advanced Photon Source, a major national user facility involving industry, academia and the government. As Schriesheim later reflected, Argonne had become "a corporate laboratory for the nation." As befits a major national institution, Schriesheim fostered strong ties between the lab and the educational community. This effort was highlighted by an innovative Chicago Science Explorers program developed with PBS newsman Bill Kurtis. Schriesheim also concerned himself with the role of women and minorities and fostered the development of a women-in-science program which has been replicated in other labs.

He also rebuilt the lab's fragile infrastructure, which was not geared up to support major new projects. And he delegated. Once the lab's divisions were reorganized, talented managers were made responsible for their areas and were given the resources to run them. His intent was to make each thematic area "a tub on its own bottom." This was especially true of the Advanced Photon Source—a lab within a lab—that Schriesheim believes "will span several generations of directors and changes of Washington administrations." The project's expected longevity looms even more critical in light of the 1994 Congressional decision to halt the lab's inherently safe, efficient, waste-recycling Integral Fast Reactor program just as it was on the verge of proving its capabilities. Nevertheless, Schriesheim believes, Argonne must continue to generate initiatives—more, even, than can possibly be funded—if it hopes to celebrate the anniversary of its second 50 years. As Schriesheim puts it, the laboratory "must undertake prime responsibility for its own survival." With its long history of winning important programs and adjusting to change, there is every reason to believe that Argonne will continue to be an essential element of the U.S. science and technology resource base for many years to come."

Awards and Notable Highlights[edit]

While at Exxon, he won the American Chemical Society's George Olah award for research in petroleum chemistry in 1969.[9]

Schriesheim served on several public corporate boards, many university and government advisory committees, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering[10] and holds 22 U.S. patents.[11][12]

He received several honorary doctorate degrees including a 2001 honorary degree in science from Penn State, and in 2005 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor the University can bestow on its graduates.[3]

He is a member of the board of directors of publicly traded HEICO, an aerospace and defense electronics company, and was a former board member of Sun Electric Company[13] and of Rohm and Haas a Fortune 500 chemical company.[14][15]

He holds honorary degrees from Penn State, Illinois Institute of Technology and Northern Illinois University[4] and is a board member of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.[16] Dr. Schriesheim continues to reside in Chicago and is president of The Chicago Council on Science and Technology.[17]

In 1987 Argonne Director and CEO Alan Schriesheim demonstrated high-temperature superconductivity to U.S. President Ronald Reagan at a 1987 superconductor applications meeting.[18]

Argonne CEO Alan Schriesheim and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987 during demonstration of high-temperature superconductivity (U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science)

In 1996 Schriesheim became a Lincoln Laureate and was awarded The Order of Lincoln by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois – the highest honor awarded by the State of Illinois.[19] Other notable Lincoln Laureates include 1981 Laureate U.S. President Ronald Reagan, artist LeRoy Neiman, Olympic Gold Medal winner Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee, author Studs Terkel, author Scott Turow, scientist and Nobel Laureate Leon M. Lederman, actor Charlton Heston, writer and Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, .[19]

According to the Official History of The Lincoln Academy:[20]

"The Order of Lincoln was established in 1964 by Proclamation of Illinois Governor Otto Kerner to honor individuals whose contributions to the betterment of humanity have been accomplished in Illinois, or, whose achievements have brought honor to the state because of their identity with it, whether by birth or residence, or whose dedication to the principles of public service inspire all Illinoisans to respond to what Lincoln called 'the better angels of our nature'. To insure that no political connotation should surround the award, an independent, non-partisan entity was established to administer the program. Thus, the Order of Lincoln and the Lincoln Academy (based respectively upon the French Legion of Honor and the French Academy) were established, with Michael Butler, the Academy's first chancellor, as its primary architect. In 1989, as part of the Academy's twenty-fifth anniversary, Governor James R. Thompson declared the Order of Lincoln to be 'the state's highest award' and every Illinois Governor since then has so described it. Each honoree receives a warrant signed by the Governor and bearing the Great Seal of the State of Illinois, certifying his or her investiture as a Laureate of the Order of Lincoln."

Wife Beatrice Schriesheim and Children[edit]

He and Beatrice, his late wife of fifty years, met while they were both graduate students in Chemistry at Penn State.[3] Beatrice Schriesheim (née Brand)[21] was born in 1930 in Poland and survived the Holocaust by escaping the Nazi invasion in 1939 and surviving imprisonment in Siberia . She arrived in the U.S. in 1947 and received her undergraduate degree from Queen's College in New York before attending Penn State's Graduate School . She was a long-time high school chemistry teacher who was committed to her students as well as to the improvement of science education in the United States . She played a leadership role in the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) organization. Her memoirs, "Bea's Journey", documented her Holocaust journey and her life in the United States . They were published in 2003 after her death at the age of 73. She shared her husband's affection and enthusiasm for the University and for helping outstanding students through scholarship support. Alan and Bea Schriesheim had two children, Laura Lyn and Robert A. Schriesheim, and six grandchildren.[3]


The Schriesheim Distinguished Graduate Fellowship,[3] according to a press release issued by The Penn State University, was established at Penn State University by Penn State alumnus Alan Schriesheim in January 2008 who gave $250,000 to the Eberly College of Science to create a Distinguished Graduate Fellowship.

According to the January 2008 Penn State press release, The fellowship, named for the donor and his late wife, Beatrice "Bea" Schriesheim, will help the Eberly College of Science to recruit academically talented first-year graduate students who are pursuing doctoral degrees, according to Dean Daniel Larson. First preference will be given to students majoring in chemistry.[3]

Penn State's Distinguished Graduate Fellowship program[22] is a University-wide program that aims to attract the nation's most capable graduate students. When a fellowship is fully funded at its $250,000 minimum, the University, through the Graduate School and the fellowship's affiliate college, will match the endowment's annual spendable income in perpetuity, thus increasing the amount available to the recipient in the form of tuition aid, a stipend, and health insurance.[3]

“The Schriesheim Fellowship will have an impact that will last beyond our lifetimes and will influence bright students and future discoveries,” said Larson. “We are grateful to Alan for recognizing the value of such a fellowship to the Eberly College and to generations of its students.”[3]


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