The James Family Laboratory for Chemical Engineering

Giving back in time and treasure


In 2014, chemical engineering chair Uzi Landau realized he had a problem: his rapidly growing undergraduate classes were outgrowing their lab spaces. In past years, the department graduated around 30-40 undergraduates a year, but that number had quickly jumped to 60-70 due to increased interest in the field. Professor Landau reached out to the Case Alumni Association and Mike Dolsak, assistant dean and executive director of development and external relations at the Case School of Engineering, who determined that they needed a special donor to lead the way. “Anytime you take on a large scale project like this, you need to know who is going to be your champion,” Dolsak explained. He approached alumnus Bill James ’64 and his wife, Mary Jane. Bill, a retired senior partner at Procter & Gamble and a chemical engineering alumnus, and Mary Jane were both thrilled by the opportunity to make an immediate difference on campus and to inspire fellow alumni and friends.

Dolsak knew that by approaching Bill and Mary Jane, he’d found the best champions for the project, the establishment of an entirely new chemical and process control undergraduate teaching lab on the third floor of the A.W. Smith Building. “We could not have done this without them,” Dolsak said. “They are the perfect example of why the power of philanthropy is so special. This entire lab renovation was built with support from our alumni and friends inspired by their leadership.” Once Bill and Mary Jane signed on, Dolsak was able to garner significant support from others, including Jim ’51 and Elsa Kauer, Jerry Wasserman ’76, Bill ’64 and Gayle Schimming, C.C. Liu PhD ’68 and Anne Boughner, Nick Trivisonno ’06, Tim McDonel ’55, MS ’57, Bob ’52 and Brenda Aiken, and Bart DiLiddo PhD ’60. The James Family Laboratory was completed just in time to accommodate the larger classes. The new lab supports an innovative concept by providing flexible, multi-purpose chemical laboratory space that serves three of the department’s expanded undergraduate classes. Bill and Mary Jane “stepped up in a big way,” Dolsak said, and created a lasting and innovative impact on campus.

Bill ’64 and Mary Jane James visit the completed lab space. 

The James Family Laboratory’s moveable desks, chairs, and white boards are used by a number of courses, including the process control junior lab led by professors Heidi Martin ’93, MS ’96, PhD ’00 and Craig Virnelson.