Peter C. Rossin, 1923-2003: A wonderful and generous human being

Rossin and his wife, Ada, gave Lehigh the largest gift in its history when they made a commitment of $25 million to the university in 1998. The gift will be used to strengthen the college of engineering, which the board of trustees in 1999 named the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science in his honor.
In the past five years, through the Rossin Foundation, the Rossins have given an additional $2.5 million to the engineering college for immediate use.
Lehigh taught me to understand technology and people, Rossin said in 1998. Now my wife, Ada, and I would like to give back to the next generation of Lehigh students to help ensure that they and the university continue to represent the very best in engineering education.
Peter Rossin was smart, creative and very successful, said Gregory C. Farrington, president of Lehigh, and his commitment and generosity to his alma mater were extraordinary.
But most importantly, he was a wonderful human being and a truly nice man. It will be a somewhat lesser world knowing he’s no longer with us.
Pete Rossin touched the heart and soul of every individual he interacted with, said Mohamed S. El-Aasser, dean of the engineering college. Above all, he was a caring individual. We will miss him dearly.
Pete’s name and legacy will survive, and the college of engineering that carries his name will always aspire to be among the best for engineering education and research.
Pete Rossin was a warm person who cared for people, said Robert M. Holcombe ’58, associate vice president of development. He loved Lehigh University and the education that it gave him. I considered him a personal friend.
The Rossins’ gifts have already enabled the engineering college to make significant improvements. Six Rossin Assistant Professorships and two Rossin Senior Professorships have been awarded in the past three years. In addition to this, Rossin Fellowships have supported 12 graduate students. All in all, the college has hired 30 faculty members in the past three years.
These new faculty include senior and junior professors, department chairs and directors of some of our new research centers, said Farrington. Pete’s generosity has been essential in propelling that process forward.
Mayuresh Kothare, associate professor of chemical engineering and a former Rossin Assistant Professor, described his research into hydrogen fuel microreactors to Rossin in a brief technical presentation in 2001.
At the end of my presentation, Pete took me by surprise when he asked several very detailed questions about the impact of my research on commercial portable power sources, Kothare said. His questions made it clear that he was very perceptive in recognizing the potential commercial impact of an area of research that was seemingly outside his domain of expertise.
Rossin earned a B.S. in metallurgical engineering from Lehigh in 1948, after serving as a military pilot in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. As a student, Rossin joined Theta Delta Chi fraternity and married Ada Egbert in 1946.
Upon graduation from Lehigh, Rossin was offered one of two slots in Bethlehem Steel’s prestigious Executive Loop Course. He turned down the opportunity, saying he was more interested in new techniques, new metals and new markets, and he went on to earn a master’s in metallurgical engineering from Yale and work toward a doctorate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
In 1951, Rossin joined General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., where he was responsible for the research and development of vacuum melting and processing of nickel-based alloys and reactive and refractory metals. Later, Rossin held research and management positions at several metals companies, including Cyclops Corp., Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. and Crucible Steel Corp.
In 1967, Rossin started his own company, Dynamet Inc., which became one of the world’s leading producers of titanium- and nickel-based alloy products for the aerospace, chemical, medical and petroleum industries. Titanium processed at Dynamet was used to make surgical staples and other medical products.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush named Rossin Small Business Person of the Year for western Pennsylvania. In 1994, Rossin received the Medal for the Advancement of Research from ASM International (formerly the American Society for Metals), a worldwide network of materials engineers, which cited his research in metal-deformation processes, powder metallurgy and special metal applications.
In 1997, Rossin sold Dynamet, which had expanded to 425 staff members at five sites, to Carpenter Technology Corp.
Rossin was made an honorary member of Lehigh’s board of trustees in 1998, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering by the university in 1999.
He also served on the board of trustees of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., where his financial support helped establish the Rossin Campus Center.
Last October, Lehigh’s engineering college made Rossin the first recipient of the new Lehigh Engineering Ingenuity Award, which the college established to honor people who showed unwavering dedication to the college and to their field of expertise.
To be honored in this fashion is a very emotional experience for me, Rossin said at that time.
Rossin is survived by his wife; his children, Joan Stephans and Peter C. Rossin ’71; and six grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206.
--Kurt Pfitzer