In the air or on land, Chelius propelled meteorology students, research

David Kubarek
April 28, 2021

Carl Chelius had a pretty exciting job as assistant professor and senior research pilot for the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences — flying Twin Commander 680E airplanes for research — but the thing he most loved was teaching and interacting with the students.

In the 1980s, Chelius flew experimental missions for the department, often at prolonged altitudes as low as 500 feet above land and as far away as the Carribeans. He also taught until retiring in 1994.

He first connected with Penn State after serving with the United States Marine Corps as a naval aviator from 1957 to 1968. The helicopter pilot completed two combat tours in Vietnam — delivering “bullets, beans and Band-Aids” to ground troops — in 1964 and 1967.

Building on his engineering degree from the United States Naval Academy, which he earned in 1957, Chelius set out to earn a “quick master’s degree” in 1968 and never left.

Because of his life experiences, he found himself older than most graduate students and enjoyed connections with students. That put him on a teaching path while relying on his piloting skills to get his feet in the faculty door at Penn State.

Seeing the funding woes students often face inspired him to establish the Chelius Family Scholarship in Meteorology from the estate of his late mother. The scholarship is dedicated to “recruit and/or retain the best and brightest full-time undergraduate students.”

“I saw this as a way to help recruit and retain the best and brightest in the department,” Chelius said. “I never want to see a great student denied a great education simply because they don’t have the means to do so.”

The Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science is highlighting the career of Chelius and his continuing contributions to learning through his family’s scholarship.

Chelius said he joined a group of great faculty members who were doing cutting-edge research while inspiring their students to do the same. When he started, there were just seven or eight faculty members, but he saw it grow in numbers and areas of expertise.

“We were a slim bunch,” Chelius said. “And still we sent some of the best students to some of the top graduate schools in the country.”

Contributions to the Chelius Family Scholarship in Meteorology will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st-Century Excellence,” visit

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Last Updated April 28, 2021