James J. Cain ’51 honored as long-time supporter of mechanical engineering

James J. Cain ’51, a long-time supporter and graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, was honored during a ceremony unveiling a commissioned portrait of Cain and a display with his memorabilia.


Cain’s long-term commitment to the department included over 30 years of gifts and contributions. His estate gift has been transformative for mechanical engineering students and faculty. As students earn their degrees, they will spend hours in the study spaces, laboratories and lecture facilities housed in the building that bears his name.

Now, as students enter the study space located on the second floor of the James J. Cain ’51 Building, formerly the Engineering Physics Laboratory Building, they will pass by a large portrait of the man who helped provide opportunities he never had. A display case houses Cain’s personal effects which span his time as a student on campus, serving in the Korean War, working as a professional engineer at Mobil Oil and the dedication of the building. The display will soon include his Aggie Ring, Bronze Medal of Honor and his high school National Honor Society pin.

Cain memorySpeakers at the ceremony included Dr. Ed Davis, former Texas A&M University Foundation president; Dr. Andreas A. Polycarpou, current head of the mechanical engineering department; Dr. Gerald Coté, former biomedical engineering department head; Dr. Anthony Guiseppi-Elie, current biomedical engineering department head; and Alexandra Kleespie, a family friend.

Irvin Kleespie, his wife Susie, and their daughters Alexandra and Sydne Kleespie, accepted the honor on behalf of Cain. Irvin Kleespie met Cain as a young man working in a grocery store. Cain became a mentor to Kleespie and the two formed a friendship that lasted over 40 years.

Also in attendance were the holders of the James J. Cain ’51 Professorship and recipients of the James J. Cain ’51 student award. The James J. Cain Endowment for the Department of Mechanical Engineering was established as a result of Cain’s generous giving. This endowment has established one chaired professorship, held by Polycarpou; two endowed professorships, held by Dr. Alan Palazzolo and Dr. Prabhakar Pagilla; and outstanding graduate and undergraduate student awards. Student award recipients include undergraduate students Kaci Dove and Yasushi Mizuno and graduate students Nafiz Chowdhury and Trevor Terrill.

Cain was the youngest of five children and was born and raised in Sherman, Texas. After completing high school, Cain attended Texas A&M and received a degree in mechanical engineering. During his long and distinguished career of more than 35 years at Mobil Oil, Cain was renowned for his desire to mentor students and faculty at Texas A&M. He took great pride in being a part of Mobil’s college recruiting team, often filling positions with Aggie graduates.

Not interested in seeking his own recognition, Cain generously gave the students and faculty of Texas A&M his time, knowledge, expertise and financial support. As a result, throughout his 35 years as a mechanical engineer, Cain won almost every award Texas A&M bestows on distinguished former students. His longstanding commitment to Texas A&M included his support of The Association of Former Students for over 30 years, his Silver Membership of the Century Club and his membership of the Forsyth Heritage Society which recognizes friends and alumni of Texas A&M for their generous support. Cain’s gifts have also benefited the Corps of Cadets, the biomedical engineering department and the President’s Endowed Scholarship Program.