Growing in Greatness
In 1988, retired Vice President of Shell Oil Company Roy Gerard (Engineering, '53 and '58) established the endowed Gerard Family Undergraduate Scholarship in Chemical Engineering, leveraging Shell's matching gift program, a contribution from his brother and an IRA rollover. Now, the scholarship fund is valued at nearly $1 million and continues to support 21st-century engineers earning a foundational education at the LSU College of Engineering.
Gerard, a 1996 College of Engineering Hall of distinction inductee, worked with Shell for nearly 35 years before retiring in 1992. He held several leadership positions throughout his career, including serving as the first president of Shell Saudi Petrochemical Company, a one-year adventure that offered "exciting" opportunities to work with global leaders and exposed his family to new environments. He's watched the "ever-increasing" LSU Department of Chemical Engineering evolve with the changes in industry, research and technology.
"I feel like I owe LSU. I had a scholarship there when I was in graduate school. I always felt a need to find a way to help," Gerard said. He cites his chemical engineering professors as major influences on his life and career and has also contributed to several professorships. "I once got a letter from the parents of one of the scholarship recipients, thanking me and telling me that without it, the kid wouldn't have been able to finish school. That really made me feel good."
Michelle West (Engineering, '18) is another of Gerard's scholarship recipients. Born in Ohio but raised in Slidell, La., and Geismar, La., West was introduced to engineering at an early age, as her parents are both chemical engineers.
She's enjoyed the "community-based experience" at LSU, growing with her classmates and using the new facilities and resources at Patrick F. Taylor Hall. Following graduation, she will begin a full-time position with BASF Corporation, where she's already completed three internships.
Gerard's advice to aspiring engineers like West is to "set the flag high on the hill, and keep working to get better and better."
"As far as leaving my mark, from a philanthropic perspective, I see someone like Mr. Gerard be so generous with his money and invest in someone else's future, and I think that I would love to do that if I'm ever in a place where I can financially support a different student, or a set of students," West shared.
Gerard was encouraged by his wife of 58 years, Minnie, to become involved with philanthropy and charitable work. Passionate about charitable work, Minnie, now deceased, even helped to fund and build Northwest Assistance, a nonprofit that last year provided assistance to 130,000 people.