Through the Generations

Author: R.G.
The Logsdon family proudly claims three generations of chemical engineering students

The Logsdons are no ordinary Purdue alumni. Their enrollment in chemical engineering spans nearly half of Purdue’s chemical engineering history and illustrates the changing times.

Ivy Logsdon (BS ’58) came to Purdue after serving four years in the U.S. Air Force. “During my service time I became convinced that I needed to get a college education,” he recalls. Chemical engineering was a lot different back then. Computers were a concept of the future, so Ivy and his classmates used slide rules. “Every serious engineering student at Purdue had their trusty slide rule swinging from their belt,” he recalls.

After graduation, Ivy began a career as a chemical engineer at Eli Lilly. Years later his son, Paul Logsdon (BS ’80), went through the same program at Purdue. Ivy always knew that Paul would be an excellent engineer. “I could talk to him about moles,” Ivy recalls, “without having to explain that it had nothing to do with yard rodents.”

Paul attended Purdue around the time that slide rules were becoming obsolete. “Instead of a slide rule hanging from your belt it was a pouch containing, by today’s standards, a boat anchor size calculator,” he laughs. Paul has been employed as a chemical engineer in the petroleum business since he graduated 28 years ago. He now works for Husky, a Canadian oil company that is working to process tar sands. Paul plays a kind of middleman between the old and the new technologies, while his son’s generation is working on retrofitting the designs from Ivy’s generation.

Dan Logsdon (center) with father, Paul (left), and grandfather, Ivy (right)

Paul remembers bringing Dan (BS 2008) to his alma mater for a visit: “Dan took one look at the Unit Operations lab and was sold on Purdue,” Paul says. “Purdue’s excellent engineering co-op program was also important; in addition to being a third-generation chemical engineer, Dan is a second-generation chemical engineering co-op student."

Dan’s five semesters as a co-op student proved invaluable. While he was in Tennessee working for DuPont Chemicals one summer, Dan visited a children’s hospital. “I realized that I really love children’s hospitals, so I took a few biology classes and knew I wanted to go to med school.”

The transition into medical school is Dan’s next big step after graduation. “Chemical engineering gave me a kind of road map, or way to think creatively about a problem and its solution,” he says. “Chemical engineering provides the tools to perform many jobs in a variety of industries,” Paul also observes. “The course work helps students look at and understand an entire process, not just one portion. The mass-balance approach is unique to chemical engineers.”

No matter what, the Logsdon alumni recognize the value of a chemical engineering education. “Over the past 100 years chemical engineering has really taken off,” Dan notes.

“In the long run this country’s challenge is to find a long-term renewable, environmentally-friendly energy source,” Paul says. “Chemical engineers will be right in the middle of making this happen.”

“After you are in the workplace for a while, you will find that you received an exceptional education here,” Ivy promises. “You will be proud to say you are a Chemical Engineer from Purdue!”