One of the provisions in the historic $45 million gift made to West Virginia University by Ben and Jo Statler called for the establishment of three endowed faculty positions in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. The first of these positions has now been filled.
John Hu, an experienced scientist and engineer with a proven track record of inventing, developing and commercializing innovative chemical processes associated with the oil and gas industries, has been named the Statler Endowed Faculty Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization, effective January 25, 2016.
Hu will lead the creation of an interdisciplinary research center related to natural gas utilization, which is a strategic area of investment for WVU. The center will operate within the WVU Energy Institute.
"This position appealed to me because of WVU's commitment to fostering leading-edge education and research that spans all aspects of the energy cycle, from production to distribution, to utilization and conservation and management," said Hu. "At WVU, I plan to focus not only on academic research and education but also on leading industrial-university partnerships, and developing intellectual properties that benefit the University and the state's economy."
Hu comes to WVU from Koch Industries, where he was charged with identifying future technological growth areas related to petrochemicals and catalytic and biological processing, and developing research and development strategies for commercialization. He also supervised industrial-funded research at U.S.-based universities, national laboratories and R&D institutes.
Before joining the team at Koch, Hu served as an R&D manager at Black & Veatch Corporation, where he led interdisciplinary teams charged with commercializing oil, gas and chemical technologies. In the late 1990s, he served as a lead refinery engineer for BP Oil, responsible for refining process optimization.
Hu spent eight years working as a research manager for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He led multidisciplinary teams in the execution of federally funded research programs and industrial collaborative projects and has garnered 24 U.S. patents and more than 75 peer reviewed journal and conference papers.
"Dr. Hu brings excellent experience from his industry and the national labs positions, and the right blend of technical expertise and leadership we sought for this first Statler Chair," said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean. "Dr. Hu will help the University make important contributions to the utilization of natural gas that will promote and support economic development for the state of West Virginia."
Hu received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Tsinghua University in China, and did his post-doctoral research at the University of Pittsburgh. He later earned an MBA from Washington State University.
A third generation coal miner, Ben Statler received his bachelor's degree in mining engineering from WVU in 1973. While attending WVU, he began his career at CONSOL Energy, working as a laborer. For 30 years, he held various positions at CONSOL Energy before starting his own mining company, PinnOak Resources LLC. Statler served as president and CEO of PinnOak until he sold the company in 2007. Currently, Statler is co-founder and CEO of Gulf Coast Capital Partners.
Jo Statler, who worked for WVU's School of Dentistry, has been a strong supporter of her community and WVU. She helped launch Bonnie's Bus, which provides digital mammography services to women in remote areas of West Virginia. The bus is named in memory of her mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson, who died of breast cancer.
Over the years, the Statlers have supported many WVU initiatives including programs at WVU's Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center; the Erickson Alumni Center; the Basketball Practice Facility and other Athletic-related capital improvements. The direct impact of their lifetime of support to WVU is nearly $60 million.