LU College of Engineering mourns the passing of former dean

With deep sympathy, Lamar University College of Engineering announces the passing of former LU College of Engineering dean Dr. Jack Hopper on April 11 at the age of 84.

Hopper was born and raised in Highlands, Texas where he graduated high school. He began his college career at Lee College in Baytown for two years before transferring to Texas A&M, where he graduated with his bachelor’s in chemical engineering in 1958 and married his wife that same year. They went on to have two children. He continued his education in 1959 where he attended University of Delaware and received his master’s in chemical engineering. He gained six years of industrial experience at ExxonMobil before he decided to make a final return to further his education at LSU and graduated in 1969.  Jack Hopper

Hopper immediately transitioned his career to education here at Lamar University in 1969 where he rose through the ranks and became the Chemical Engineering Department Chair in 1974 and would become the 7th Dean of the College of Engineering in 1999.  He held the dean position from 1999 until his retirement in 2013. While in his role as dean, Hopper had many accomplishments and most notably created the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board and began the first capital campaign that raised $150 million in endowments for engineering. After his retirement, Hopper was given the title Dean Emeritus in 2013. Throughout his time at LU, Hopper inspired many and is remembered by many students and colleagues who considered him a friend.

The College of Engineering reached out to former colleagues and students about their memories of Dr. Hopper and was overwhelmed with the response. Here are just some of the stories that were shared with the college:  

“Jack became Lamar’s greatest engineering faculty member, [a] legendary dean. Most research grants, top faculty achievements, most big-time alum achievers, etc. Truly, in today’s vernacular, ’If you don’t know Jack, you don’t know Jack,’ or as they [say] over there, deep in Lamar College of Engineering, ’Go Jack. Or go home.’ We shall miss him greatly! One of Lamar’s greatest ever!” – Dr. Jack Gill, College of Engineering Advisory Council Member

“Jack Hopper hired me in 2001 as the Chair of Electrical Engineering at LU and was one of the most professional, kind and competent mentors that I have had in my 40-year career in higher education. Just an exceptional leader and friend.” – Dr. Harley R. Myler, retired Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering

“Dr. Hopper had a great sense of humor and was always sharp and attentive. He made you feel important even, when you were a student, and always treated people with respect. He had that hidden smile and curious look that made him so easy to [talk] to and work with. He was always calm and a great person to be [around]. He was also a great dinner companion and had interesting things to say – he was always full of life and good stories.”- Dr. Hash Hashemian, College of Engineering Advisory Council Member

“As my graduate project advisor, Dr. Hopper gave me expert technical advice [and] professional presentation guidance that enabled me to actually implement my project at work successfully at the Beaumont Refinery. I still give talks about my work with Dr. Hopper all around the world.” – Dr. Anita Riddle Schmidt, College of Engineering Advisory Council member

“He was a great influence on me in my college and professional life. He will be missed." – Jeff Jones 

“Jack was the first person I met at Lamar. He took me to dinner the night before I interviewed for the position of Professor and Chair of Industrial Engineering and Director Engineering Graduate Programs. At the time of my visit to Lamar, Jack was serving as Interim Chair of Industrial Engineering. Then twenty years later I served as chair of the search committee when Jack was selected for the Dean of Engineering position. Jack and I worked very closely together when he was dean and I served as Associate Dean of Engineering. We had lunch together almost daily in the dean’s conference room.  I like to say during those lunches we solved the problems of the world. Jack used to say, ‘friends come and go but enemies accumulate.’  But when he retired, I said I’m not going anywhere.  We stayed in touch by phone even during the pandemic. He and Marilyn were great friends and he was always very proud of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by so many.” – Dr. Victor Zaloom, Interim Chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

“Dr. Hopper was the Department Chair when I applied for an assistant professor position in the Chemical Engineering Department in February 1982.  After campus interview, he drove me to the Beaumont Airport to catch my flight back home and made me an offer there.  That historical offer led me to a rewarding life-long career at Lamar University and started an enjoyable life-long relationship with him.  During the next 39+ years, I constantly expressed my appreciation to him providing me with this dream job. The relationship remained after his retirement until he passed away last week. I told my wife all the time we were blessed being associated with Dr. Hopper for my entire career at Lamar University.

Dr. Hopper was an amazing administrator, educator and person, who touched everyone with his charming and unique smile.  My wife told me constantly that it was his smile she remembered the most and she always felt warm when she talked to him because of his smile.  I recalled there was a time I missed a graduate seminar class while I was still an assistant professor.  The students could not find me and Dr. Hopper attended the class for me.  After the class, I nervously rushed to Dr. Hopper's office preparing to explain.  He just smiled and said it happened to him all the time. Dr. Hopper was a respectful leader and his leadership style was well-appreciated. 

Dr. Hopper was also an intelligent and humorous person who constantly reminded people with wise sayings like ‘Friends come and go, enemies accumulate,’ ‘Every penny counts’ and more.  While he was the Dean, he provided colleagues with a laminated card listing ‘Behavior of Happy People,’ i.e., ‘practice gratitude,' 'be optimistic,' 'nurture relationships,' 'commit to goals,' 'develop coping strategies,' 'learn to forgive,' and 'be physically active.’ I continue to keep the card and use it to remind myself even until today. Dr. Hopper’s wisdom was valuable and beneficial to everyone around him. Dr. Hopper will be missed and his legacy will live on!” – Dr. T.C. Ho, retired Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

“Dr. Hopper was a very supportive Associate Provost for Research and Dean of College of Engineering toward students, staff, and faculties. He was very approachable and respectful. He had a warm heart, always mentioning about his family. We will miss him.” – Dr. Stefan Andrei, Chair of the Department of Computer Science

“When Jack began teaching in the Chemical Engineering department, he was assigned to teach the senior Unit Operations lab class. Unfortunately, the equipment in the lab was so antiquated that it frequently broke down during the experiments: so frequently, in fact, the students started bringing tools to the class to [attempt] repairs so that they could finish the lab in the allotted time. Naturally, this was accompanied by a great deal of complaining on the part of the students. 

Many years later, Jack encountered one of the chief complainers, and they began to reminisce about the student’s experiences at Lamar. When Jack asked, ‘what class was the most useful to you in your job,’ he was frankly astonished to hear the student reply, ‘The Unit Ops Lab.’ 

‘What?’ Exclaimed Jack, astonished. ‘You were always complaining about having to fix the equipment each week to be able to do the experiments!’

The student replied, ‘true, but at my job I spend so much time troubleshooting our equipment that my lab experience has been invaluable!’” – Dr. John Gossage, associate professor of chemical engineering

"I am grateful that Dr. Hopper hired me in 2001 to help 'pull the wagon.' Dr. Hopper was loved at LU and served as a distinguished member of LU College of Engineering as a Chemical Engineering faculty member, Department Chair and ultimately dean, along with other leadership roles. He was a teacher, colleague, friend, mentor and leader to thousands, and was the consummate gentleman. The LU College of Engineering has been given the honor and responsibility to continue Dr. Hopper’s legacy." – Dr. Brian Craig, Dean of the College of Engineering

Although there are many fond stories and memorable quotes about Dr. Hopper’s legacy, it is not an exaggeration to say that this was only scratching the surface on the amazing impact that Dr. Jack Hopper has left in our community. He will truly be missed, but his legacy will live on in our college and the community at large.