John T. Files Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Engineering

Feb 14, 1991 | Graduate Fellowships

The John T. Files Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Engineering was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on February 14, 1991, for the benefit of the Cockrell School of Engineering. Gift funds were provided by an anonymous donor and friends of the University of Austin, Texas.

John Thomas Files was born in the shadow of the Capital at Austin, Texas, on August 13, 1918, to Jane and Sidney J. Files. Files was reared in cotton and cattle country in Itasca, Texas, where his family settled Files Valley as pioneers in the Republic of Texas in 1837.

As a young man, Files earned a Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and was honored with membership in Tau Beta Pi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and Phi Eta Sigma. He would later, in 1968, be named distinguished graduate of the College of Engineering and honored, in 1992, with the creation of the John T. Files Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Engineering by his Alma Mater. After serving for two years on the engineering faculty of the University, Files joined Dow Chemical Company as the assistant chief engineer, leaving in 1945 to found Merichem Company.

From humble beginnings manufacturing soap and refining wax, Files and his team at Merichem pioneered a new technology of refining cresylic acids from refineries’ caustic solutions. Merichem became, under Files leadership and strong business ethics, a major specialty chemical manufacturer that produces high-quality cresylic acids, naphthenic acids, and soda chemicals from petroleum used in consumer products as diverse as pharmaceuticals and airplanes, lubricating oils, tanned leather, and computers. Today Merichem Company provides a diversified portfolio of products and services to a wide range of operations, including the refining and petrochemicals industries.

John T. Files

With more than 1,000 licensed process units worldwide, Merichem is the leader in licensing patented process technologies and supplying proprietary equipment to provide hydrocarbon treating solutions and by-product management services that remove sulfur and other impurities from hydrocarbon liquids and gases in the upstream and downstream energy sectors.

Files was well known and respected in international, national, and Texas chemical industry associations, including the American Chemistry Council, Texas Chemical Council, European Petrochemical Association, Society of Chemical Industry, American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (having been elected a Fellow in 1978), National Association of Manufacturers, and the Newcomen Society.

Files served on the board of directors for many professional and business organizations, including the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. He was appointed by Texas Governor John Connally in 1966 to serve as a founding member of the Texas Air Control Board and subsequently was awarded a citation of commendation for his pioneering work in developing the Texas Air Control regulations and standards.

In 1982, the Chemical Industry Association awarded Files the Winthrop-Sears Medal, which is presented to an individual “who, by his actions, contributed to the industry and to the betterment of mankind.” In 1998, he was further honored with the Petrochemical Heritage Award by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Founders Club in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the petrochemical community.

Files served in numerous civic and business organizations throughout his career, including the position of trustee of the Southwest Research Institute and Goodwill Industries of Houston. He was a long-time member of the Breakfast Association in Houston.

Latest Stories

How to Give

Learn more at

Search Endowments

Look for inspiring stories