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Alumni, faculty member to be inducted into national engineering honorary

Photos of Verl Purdy, Kerri Knotts and David Klinke.

 Alumni Verl Purdy and Kerri Knotts and faculty member David Klinke will be inducted into Tau Beta Pi this weekend.

Two West Virginia University alumni and one faculty member will be formally inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary. The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources TBP chapter is hosting the organization’s 39th annual district four conference, which runs from Friday, April 7-Sunday, April 9.

Alumni Verl Purdy and Kerri Knotts will join David Klinke, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, at the ceremony, which will take place on Saturday, April 8, in Evansdale Crossing, at 3 p.m. The trio will be inducted as practicing engineers, with each achieving eminence in engineering as determined by TBP headquarters.

A native of Poca, Purdy earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from WVU in 1964. After stints with B.F. Goodrich Chemicals and FMC, Purdy joined the BASF group in 1969, and played a major role in developing the company from a start-up operation in the United States to a multi-billion-dollar entity. He left BASF in 1980 to become president and CEO of Rio Tinto Zinc Chemicals in the United States and Canada. Again, he led this start-up company into leadership in the chemical treatment industry. In 1984 the company was sold, and he started yet another company–AGDATA Inc.—in 2002. Today, AGDATA is the oldest, most established agricultural data management company in the world. He is currently managing partner with Cadrillion Capital, a private investment firm.

Purdy is a member of the WVU Chemical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni, the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni and the WVU Foundation Board of Directors.

Coming out of high school, Knotts was encouraged by teachers to major in engineering. After spending three years studying journalism at WVU in hopes of heading to law school, Knotts decided to take their advice, transferring to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

That advice turned into a 20-plus year career with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where she was responsible for planning, training and executing space shuttle and international space station missions from mission control center, developing advanced spacesuit technology and designing areas of the Constellation Program that would allow exploration beyond low earth orbit.

When the Constellation Program was cancelled, Knotts took on a six-month position in business management for human resources, where she was responsible for multiple business contracts that supported NASA employee’s quality of life programs. Six-months turned to four years and by the end, Knotts had fully overhauled the program to better benefit employees and the budget. In 2014, she became CEO at PetroActive, a Houston, Texas-based fuel-additives company.

Klinke applies existing technology or prototypes new technology to identify how biological networks are regulated in health and how these networks become altered in cancer. He recently received a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct research into how immunotherapy can strengthen the body’s own defenses to improve treatment for breast and lung cancers.

In addition to his appointment in the Statler College, Klinke, who earned his master’s and doctoral degree at Northwestern University in 1995 and 1998, respectively, is a member of the WVU Cancer Institute and an adjunct associate professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology in the WVU School of Medicine.

Founded in 1985, TBP is the nation’s second oldest honor society. The District Four Conference will bring more than 100 TBP members to campus from four states—West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina—as well as the District of Columbia.



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