Department namesake and supporter Arthur "Artie" McFerrin Jr. ’65, passes away at 74

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Arthur "Artie" McFerrin Jr. ’65 passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 8. McFerrin has been a longtime supporter of the chemical engineering department, which bears his name, and Texas A&M University as a whole.

In 1975, after working for Shell and as an independent consultant, McFerrin decided to make a bet on himself, founding KMCO, LP. As McFerrin told the department in 2008, it was a challenge, but he had the confidence in himself.

“I kind of knew it was risky, but I was really young and had no fear,” McFerrin said. “That’s not to say I didn’t know there was risk, but I knew I could do it.

Betting on himself turned out to be a great move. Over its more than 40 years of operation, KMCO has grown into one of the leading chemical processers, producing a wide variety of high-value chemicals for some of the most prominent global chemical companies.

Beginning in 2001, McFerrin began betting on the Texas A&M chemical engineering department. That year, McFerrin and his son Jeff McFerrin ’92 (pictured below left), established the McFerrin Professorship in Chemical Engineering. This professorship has proven crucial in attracting and retaining top teaching talent to the department. The original recipient of the McFerrin Professorship, Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi, still holds the position in the department.

In 2005, McFerrin and his wife Dorothy established a $10 million endowment devoted exclusively to supporting the chemical engineering department, the largest gift to the department to date. After this gift the department was renamed the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering.

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“I’m focused on where I can have the most impact – in chemical engineering, that’s my background, chem-e at A&M,” McFerrin reflected in 2008. “I feel like part of the department and I want to see the department be successful. It’s always been successful, but on the national scene there is a constant battle. Even with the new [Jack E. Brown] building, which is great, and the facilities and labs and the endowment, this is still a growing effort, but at least we have a better foundation to grow from now.”

SonOutside of the chemical engineering department, McFerrin and his wife have contributed millions of dollars to Texas A&M. These contributions are visible throughout campus and include the McFerrin Indoor Athletic Center and the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball. In addition, the McFerrins created a $1 million endowment in 2006 for the Becky Gates Children’s Center and made a gift to name the Bob Gates Ballroom in the renovated Memorial Student Center. The McFerrins also donated $1 million to endow the Marilyn Kent Byrne Student Success Center and a similarly named faculty chair in the College of Education and Human Development.

Most recently, the couple gave $3 million to support the Artie McFerrin ’65 Professor of Practice to bring industry experts to engineering classrooms and to help build the new undergraduate Zachry Engineering Education Complex.

McFerrin’s service to Texas A&M goes well beyond financial gifts. He has served as chairman of the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board and on the President's Corps of Cadets Board of Visitors. He also served as chairman of the 12th Man Foundation Board of Trustees, and in the Texas A&M Research Foundation, the Engineering School Advisory Council and the Chancellor's Century Council.

McFerrin also received countless awards for his service to the university. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1998 and The Association of Former Students Distinguished Alumnus in 2008, he received the Dwight Look College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni Honor Award in 2013 and the Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor Award in 2015. In 2014, McFerrin published a book highlighting his leadership style “The Executioner: Implementing Intangible, Elusive Success Principles.”

Dr. M. Nazmul Karim, professor and head of the chemical engineering department, reflected on McFerrin's impact on the department.

"Artie McFerrin was a guiding light for the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. Over the years when the Department needed guidance or when they felt they were “lost” like the ship-wrecked sailors, the departmental leadership and faculty looked up to Artie for his wisdom and his unwavering support for creating a nurturing environment for students to excel in classroom and outside. He was a great proponent of entrepreneurship, and excellence in education and research. His book, “Executioner” bears the testimony of his passion for excellence. I will personally miss him dearly; he was a friend.”

Artie McFerrin is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Dorothy McFerrin, their son Jeffery McFerrin and his wife Kasey and children Karsen and Sydney, their daughter Jennifer McFerrin-Bohner, her husband David and children Ally and Lexi. He is also survived by his sister Mary McFerrin Knockaert and her husband Earl and his brother-in-law Joe Jersild and his wife Irina.