John T. Files Endowed Scholarship in Engineering
The John T. Files Endowed Scholarship in Engineering was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on August 7, 2003, for the benefit of the Cockrell School of Engineering. This scholarship was endowed by Merichem Company in gratitude for the dedication and leadership of John T. Files.
Mr. Files was born in the shadow of the Capital at Austin, Texas, on August 13, 1918, to Jane and Sidney J. Files. Mr. Files was reared in cotton and cattle country in Itasca, Texas, where his family settled Files Valley as pioneers to the Republic of Texas in 1837.
As a young man, Mr. 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 served on the Engineering Foundation Advisory Council. After spending two years as engineering faculty at UT Austin, Mr. Files joined Dow Chemical Company at Freeport as assistant chief engineer, leaving in 1945 to found Merichem Company.
From humble beginnings manufacturing soap and refining wax, Mr. Files and his team at Merichem pioneered a new technology of refining cresylic acids from refineries’ caustic solutions. Under Mr. Files leadership and strong business ethics, Merichem became a major specialty chemical manufacturer that continues to service the global community through production of 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.
Mr. 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. He served on the board of directors for many professional and business organizations. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
He was appointed by 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 Mr. 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.
Mr. 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. Mr. Files was a longtime member of the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist in Houston and very active in church activities. He nurtured an early interest in ranching by obtaining a second master’s degree in Animal Husbandry from A&M University and raising cattle for a time on acreage close to Merichem’s plant location near the Houston Ship Channel. He was for many years also active in the Santa Gertrudis Breeders Association.
This generous gift from the Merichem Company is a fitting memorial to its founder. The endowments that bear his name will live in perpetuity, ensuring that he is remembered by Longhorns given the opportunity to change the world with a UT education.
Revised May 5, 2020