November 2019 Member of the Month: E.G. Meyer

Emeritus Professor in Chemistry, University of Wyoming
CEO of Coal to Chemicals Technologies, LLC

As we enter the holiday season, it is with great pleasure to share my interview with November’s “Member of the Month”, E.G. Meyer. He celebrated his 100th birthday on November 2nd and is still a very active member of the Laramie business community. You will often see E.G. and his wife Barb at many of the LCBA events. He is an Emeritus Professor in Chemistry, remaining active in UW affairs, the American Chemical Society, City of Laramie, and supports local non-profit organizations.  In 1963, E.G. was appointed the Dean of the Arts & Sciences at the University of Wyoming.

E.G. noted, “At the time I came, the faculty was less than 100 people in the Arts & Sciences – everyone was squeezed into the Arts & Sciences Building. Stan Hathaway was the governor at the time. One day I got a call from Hathaway and he said, “you know, I just came back from the National Governors Council meeting. Most of these governors have science advisors. I don’t know what that really means…so, you’re it!””

E.G. has a long history in the coal industry and is still involved in working to commercialize the technology to convert coal to chemicals. The way he explains the events that sparked his interest in coal is fascinating. At the time, the coal in the Powder River Basin was exploding. He went on to explain Governor Hathaway’s concerns with him, “The whole crazy thing about coal is you dig it up, crush it, get it loaded in the car,” said Hathaway, “for $3 per ton and it costs $20 per ton to get it to market. That makes no sense!” E.G. agreed and formulated his question on what you can do with coal. “I decided to use it as a chemical raw material just like oil. Then I started to do work on how you treat coal so you get chemical products out of it, and it turns out the way you do it is to mimic the oil business. In the oil business you “crack” oil by heat and a catalyst. So that is what we do with coal. That is the sequence that got me interested in coal.”

E.G. stays busy with his work. He noted, “I have a lot of activities with the Chemical Society and I end up being asked to visit places and give talks. I still have interests on the campus. We set up a visiting in industry professorship in engineering and in the sciences. The schedule isn’t the same as it was, that’s for sure. But I get there about 9:30, my wife Barb makes lunch for me, and then get home about 5. I have a stack of emails which two-thirds is junk.”

When asked how much he kept up with emails and the internet, he responded, “As you go along in life, you encounter things that didn’t exist in a previous part of your life. For example, when I was Dean, you are making decisions about instruments that didn’t even exist when you were in graduate school. When I was in grad school, we used hand cranked adding machines…that was it!” You just have to learn as you go along. If you don’t, you’re dead.”

Collecting art was one of the things that E.G. has enjoyed most in life. His interest in collecting art began from his Grandmother who had bought paintings from the Taos Society of Artists in New Mexico. Since then, he has collected many pieces over the years.

E.G. is also an avid runner and participates in the Senior Olympics. “My running had never been a formal deal. I ran every morning, rain or snow,” he chuckled, “those days are over.” He has participated in the Senior Olympics for several years, starting out in the 5K and 10K road races. “Now if I did that, I ‘d need a respirator. As the age goes up, the time it takes goes up, and the number of participants goes down.” He spoke about the 2019 games: “I was running in the 100-year-old age group and it turned out there were no other runners, so I ran with the 95-age group. I did all 4 races and got a gold medal in all of them. But I won the 200m and 400m outright. 400m is tough for an old man.”

Having active senior members like E.G Meyer is valuable to our community and organization. E.G. contributes in many ways through his time and knowledge.

“I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and associations. I graduated in 1940 from Carnegie Tech (which is now Carnegie Mellon), next year is my 80th reunion so I’m going back! There ain’t going to be many guys or gals there I’m sad to say.  I had a great upbringing. When I went to Carnegie Tech, I met a girl, and in those days the ratio of males to females was 10:1. I got married in 1941.We had 3 kids – they have been great. Unfortunately, she died at 64.” E.G. noted that “the other thing that has sort of been miraculous” was meeting his wife Barb. “We are now together, that’s how things work out. We travel, and she even makes lunch. It’s a nice life.”