FEATURE — Spring 2010
   

 
Stanley Proctor (left), BSChE ’57, MSChE ’62, DSc ’72, spent some 30-plus years with Monsanto Company working in chemical engineering. Over the decades, he also served as a valued volunteer for the engineering school that gave him his start. Above, he meets with Jay Turner, DSc ’93, associate professor of chemical engineering and director of undergraduate studies. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

A Constant Leader

Over the course of alumnus Stanley Proctor’s 50-year engineering career, technology and missions morphed and changed, but one aspect stayed the same: his desire to give back to the institutions that helped him succeed.

By Rick Skwiot

In the early days of alumnus Stanley Proctor’s distinguished, 50-year chemical-engineering career, Monsanto’s computer would fill a small auditorium and deliver less computing power than today’s Palm Pilot. Further, writing groundbreaking computer programs proved arduous.

“My area of expertise was chemical reaction engineering. Back then, we accomplished a few things that I felt very good about—simulating chemical processes on the computer, helping design chemical processes, and writing generalized computer programs for reactor design,” Proctor says. “The first computer programs I wrote, even as a student, were in machine language, not Fortran or any of the computer languages of today. The machine recognized only ones and zeros, and was coded so that a combination of ones and zeros meant something.”

As a result, Proctor became part of a pioneering team in computer applications in the chemical industry.

“I had the advantage of being involved with computers very early on, and Monsanto was a leader in computer program development,” Proctor says. “We led the country—or even the world—in computer applications for the chemical industry.”

Just as the growth in computing power revolutionized the chemical industry over Proctor’s half-century of service, so has the environmental movement. “Thinking green” was in its infancy, at best, when Proctor joined Monsanto, which in recent years has spun off its chemical business.

Environmental issues were not as prevalent as they are today, and the whole environmental movement developed over time, says Proctor. “When I started, we thought we were being responsible. Today people would look at what we did and say, ‘Well, no, you weren’t being responsible at all,’” he says. “But we did what we knew how to do and what we felt was right. We know a lot more today about the impact of chemicals, in the short- and long-term.”

Sustainable development—meaning more than just the environmental aspect—has impacted the chemical industry in important ways. “Whatever you make, you need to be concerned about how it’s used and the final impact of those products and the byproducts,” Proctor says.

Help along the way
Over the years, Proctor assumed numerous leadership positions at Monsanto. Recognizing his efforts there and in professional societies, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) named him one of the “One Hundred Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era.” During Proctor’s successful career, however, he had to overcome several challenges.

After studying two years at an area community college, Proctor won a full-tuition scholarship to Washington University. He earned his bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering, with honors, in 1957. After some graduate study, Proctor began his career with Monsanto in 1959 and returned to study while working full time. He earned a master’s degree in 1962 and his doctorate in 1972.

“I owe a lot to Jim McKelvey, who was dean of the School of Engineering at the time,” Proctor says, “because he helped me a lot when I was struggling with juggling both work and school. Overall, faculty supported students and in some cases went out of their way to be helpful.”

That help was vital to Proctor, whose Monsanto responsibilities continued to grow.

Over a 20-year span, Proctor moved from chemical reaction engineering to engineering-computations management to process-simulation management to assuming managerial responsibility for Monsanto’s primary petrochemical complex, in Chocolate Bayou, Texas.

By 1979 he was back at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters as director of engineering technology, in the company’s Corporate Engineering Department, overseeing a consulting organization primarily in process engineering. That led to two-year stints as director of applied sciences in Monsanto’s Central Research Laboratories and as director of biotechnology projects.

Then, he was promoted to Monsanto Chemical Company’s director of engineering technology and services, leading a group of technical experts with emphasis in process and environmental engineering. He retired from Monsanto in 1993 to begin his own consulting business, Proctor Consulting Services, which specializes in technology and people management, organizational and staffing issues, leadership and more for industrial, academic, and government clients.

People management and leadership skills played an important part in Proctor’s success; he was one of the leaders in helping introduce diversity concerns at Monsanto.

“It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader,” Proctor says. “You can lead by example, you can lead through teamwork, you can lead through interactions with other people. I have known many people who were great leaders, yet they didn’t manage people.”

Giving back
Proctor himself has led by example when it comes to serving the institutions that nurtured his career.

“I have a philosophy that the true professional has to be willing to give back in two primary areas. First, to the alma mater that gave him professional birth, if you will, and second, to the organizations that sustained his or her technical growth,” he says.

Proctor’s service to the School of Engineering & Applied Science, which extends back nearly 20 years, includes current positions on the Alumni Advisory Council Executive Committee, the Scholarship Committee, and the National Council. In addition, he and his late wife, Carol, established two ongoing scholarships, one of them endowed.

Proctor’s University-wide activities included serving on the Alumni Board of Governors and as a member of the Endowed Scholarship Committee.

While his contributions to Washington University have come in the form of both financial support and service, he emphasizes the importance of the latter. Proctor particularly stresses volunteerism for younger alumni who may not be able to make significant financial contributions but can give their time and energy.

While Proctor appreciates the importance of financial contributions, he also feels strongly that individuals should commit themselves to service. “It’s not easy to take hours out of your month to do something for the University or for your technical society or whatever charitable activity,” he says. “We need more of our younger alums to be involved in University activities.”

Proctor also devoted his time and expertise to his profession. He served on several committees for the National Science Foundation. He held numerous positions for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology—including president and fellow—and served as a program evaluator and as a visitor to international institutions. He is a past president and fellow of the AIChE. Other organizations include the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Engineering Societies, and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

In addition to being named by the AIChE in 2008 as one of the “One Hundred Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era,” he received their Founders Award in 1989 and their F.J. & Dorothy Van Antwerpen Award in 1993. He also received the Society of Women Engineers’ Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award that same year. And coming full circle, the School of Engineering honored Proctor with an Alumni Achievement Award in 1995, and the University honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award at Founders Day in 2005.

Rick Skwiot is a freelance writer based in Key West, Florida.