In Memoriam: Vincent G. Grassi, Professor of Practice in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

A beloved instructor, Grassi taught courses in all four years of chemical engineering education. 

Vincent G. Grassi, a professor of practice in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, passed away May 3 in The Villages, Fla., from esophageal cancer. He was 64.

Vincent Grassi

Vincent G. Grassi

Grassi, a much-loved instructor, taught courses in all four years of chemical engineering education, freshman through senior year. He was the 2019 recipient of Lehigh’s Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates an exceptional talent for encouraging students to understand alternatives and to make choices, and who knows how to extract from students the full measure of their potential to learn. Those who nominated Grassi said that his passion for his profession was evident in every second of his teaching. Grassi also received the Rossin College Faculty Experiential Learning Excellence Award in 2019. 

“In the passing away of Dr. Vince Grassi, we have lost an unusually gifted instructor, passionate student mentor and a dear colleague who embraced new methods of pedagogy, took an active role in the KEEN [Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network] initiative within the department and explored new tools of engineering education through entrepreneurial skill development,” said Mayuresh Kothare, R. L. McCann Professor and chair of the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “He took a particularly active role in encouraging women chemical engineering students to excel in their courseworks and eventual career planning."

The Chemical Engineering Class of 2020 shared remembrances of Grassi during a virtual memorial. Among the reflections: 

“His words of encouragement as my advisor have, in general, been one of the best parts of my chemical engineering experience. I’d like to thank Professor Grassi for all he has done for me and the entire chemical engineering program.” 

“He was always very supportive in my professional and personal endeavors. He was the first person I reached out to when I needed work last summer, he was the first person I reached out to when I had questions about internships, and he was the first professor I had ever reached out to for help when I was having issues balancing my schoolwork and personal life.” 

“He was a man of great character and I would not be nearly as prepared for my future without his teachings. Most importantly, Professor Grassi taught us not to worry about the ‘little things’ and always emphasized that we should really enjoy life’s journey. He really helped shape me into the man I am today and for that I am forever in his debt.” 

“He was a very special professor in the way he taught us not only about chemical engineering principles but about life and what is truly important. It was clear that he cared not only for our education but how we developed as people. His desire to create well-rounded engineers, ready for both the intellectual rigor and social responsibility of chemical engineering industries was inspiring.” 

Grassi received his B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester in 1978. He then earned an M.S. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in 1991, also in chemical engineering, from Lehigh. He held various leadership positions at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. in Allentown, Pa., from 1978 to 2013, including senior engineering manager of process modeling and control, director of global learning and knowledge management, and director of employee development, diversity and inclusion. Grassi served as an adjunct professor in Lehigh’s department of chemical and biomolecular engineering from 2008-2013, focused primarily on the senior capstone design project. Following his 2013 retirement from Air Products, he joined the Lehigh faculty full-time as a professor of practice in chemical engineering, where he continued to teach until his passing. 

Grassi held key positions in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). He served as chair and director of one of the divisions of AIChE, as a member of the Chemical Technology Operating Council, and as co-chair of the Annual Meeting of AIChE. Most recently, he served in 2014 as the executive programming board chair.

Prior to Grassi’s passing, chemical engineering students from the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 prepared a video expressing their appreciation and good wishes

Grassi is survived by his wife, Kimberly, daughter, Christine, and sister, Susan. Online condolences may be sent to www.baldwincremation.com.

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