Ken Graziani receives Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ken Graziani, a Penn State chemical engineering alumnus, was recently named one of 12 recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award.

Established in 1966, the award is the highest honor bestowed by the Penn State College of Engineering and recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Penn State in 1970, Graziani obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois. He then joined Mobil Research and Development Corporation, now ExxonMobil Research and Engineering (EMRE), in 1974 as a research engineer.

Since then, he has held numerous senior technology leadership and executive management positions with EMRE, serving as senior engineering adviser prior to his retirement in 2009. Although retired, Graziani continues to provide technical and leadership consultation in the energy industry.

“I was with one company my whole career, which is kind of a rarity, especially today. It was a very satisfying career,” Graziani said. “It was a well-rounded, positive experience both professionally with what I achieved, what I did, how I felt like I added value to my company and to society, and I also had the opportunity to work with some really great people. Looking back on my career, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”

Graziani is a strong advocate for the College of Engineering. He initiated and has led the Penn State Chemical Engineering Alumni Group, serves on the board of directors for the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society, and is involved with Penn State AIChE.

In addition to offering his time and experience, Graziani also contributes financially to the college. He serves on the Engineering Development Council, working to raise funds for the new Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Building, in which he and his wife, Cindy, made a generous donation. They also have an endowed scholarship.

When Graziani met one of his scholarship recipients, he said, “Forty years from now when you’re retired, I would like you to start a scholarship so you can fund a student who isn’t even born yet and keep the cycle going.” The recipient agreed.

“I do a lot of volunteering at Penn State because I want to give back,” said Graziani. “The professors were very patient and gave good advice, and they gave me the opportunity to earn money while doing things that enhanced my education, such as working in some of the chemical engineering laboratories. I might not have been able to finish school because of financial situations, but I did because of all the help I received.”

Working with students is Graziani’s passion. And since he was in their shoes, he understands the things they’re most worried about, especially all the decisions they have to make when it comes to focusing on a specialty, what company they should work for, and if they should go to graduate school.

“Don’t agonize too much about the decisions you have to make, because none of them are irreversible,” said Graziani. “What do you love doing? What course did you take that you actually got excited about and loved? Follow what you love and you’ll be happy. And if you find out down the road it wasn’t what you thought it was, you can always change. Nothing is ever really that permanent. Follow your heart and don’t be afraid to just try something and have it not work out, because sometimes learning what you don’t want to do is just as important as learning what you want to do.”

Graziani will be honored on April 23 at the College of Engineering’s annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.

Last Updated March 28, 2018