Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Bob Schechter

Robert S. (Bob) Schechter was raised in Rosenberg, Texas, where his parents operated a small clothing store. Inspired by his high school chemistry teacher Mr. Althouse, Schechter decided to become a chemical engineer, graduating from Texas A & M University in 1950 with a BSChE, before beginning his doctoral program at the University of Minnesota. With the onset of the Korean War, Schechter was called into the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps. While stationed in Anniston, Alabama, he met and married his beloved Mary Ethel Schechter. Upon his discharge as First Lieutenant, they returned to Minnesota where he completed his doctoral program in 1956.

Hired at the recommendation of his PhD supervisor, Dr. Herb Isben, Schechter joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for his entire 41-year academic career. Initially hired to teach in Chemical Engineering, midway through his tenure he changed departments, joining what was then the Department of Petroleum Engineering. Schechter chaired both departments, Chemical Engineering from 1970-73 and Petroleum Engineering from 1975-78.

First and foremost, Robert Schechter was a teacher. He loved his students and the profession of teaching. Schechter taught over a hundred graduate and undergraduate classes, and guided 50 students to Masters of Science degrees and 40 to Doctors of Philosophy degrees. His skill and ability earned him many awards for teaching excellence, including the General Dynamics Award for Teaching Excellence in the College of Engineering in 1987 and the AIME Mineral Industry Education Award in 1998.

Schechter was a prolific scholar, focused broadly on the area of applied thermodynamics. He, his collaborators and his students have contributed to the understanding of microemulsion stability, geochemical modeling, and surfactant/mineral interactions, all with application to improved oil production methods. Schechter published 202 refereed articles, 27 book chapters and five books, while editing two others. He and his long-time friend, Dr. Bill Wade, developed the spinning drop tensiometer.

Schechter freely shared his research and ideas with his colleagues and has continued to assist them, even to this day, in developing proposals for research and grants. His creativity and contributions earned him election into the National Academy of Engineering in 1976, the Chevalier of the Order of the Palmes Academiques from the Prime Minister of France in 1980, the Billy and Claude R. Hocott Distinguished Engineering Research Award in 1984 (the first awarded), the Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award in 1991, the John Franklin Carll Award from the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 1994 and the designation in 2009 as one of the Journal of Petroleum Technology’s Legends of Production and Operation.

Schechter’s professional accomplishments fail to fully describe the man. He was a loving husband to Mary Ethel, who passed away in 2010; devoted father to three boys, Richard, Alan Lawrence (of blessed memory) and Geoffrey; beloved brother and uncle; and a respected colleague and friend. He still resides in the home where he and Mary Ethel hosted so many dinners for students and colleagues.


Contact Catherine Campbell at 512-471-3208