University of Southern California

USC News logo

Engineering Dept. Gets Alum’s Name

09/20/05
The $15 million gift from executive John Mork and family will support USC interdisciplinary research in chemical engineering, materials science and petroleum engineering.
By Diane Ainsworth
John Mork, chief executive officer of the Denver-based Energy Corporation of America, with his wife Julie.

Photo/Bill Ross; front-page photo by Irene Fertik
An energy company executive and his family have given $15 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to name a newly merged department that includes the program from which he received his petroleum engineering degree in 1970.

The gift from John Mork, chief executive officer of the Denver-based Energy Corporation of America; his wife Julie; and adult children Kyle and Alison establishes the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Since 1989, petroleum engineering has been a program within chemical engineering.

“Advances at the nano-bio-chemical interface will have a significant impact on many fronts, including our ability to develop a new means of energy production, for example, through fuel cells and new materials to facilitate the conversion of natural gas to hydrogen,” said Mork, who oversees a privately held company that would rank among the top 50 largest oil and gas companies in the country if it were publicly owned.

“We are deeply indebted to John Mork, who is a visionary alumnus and partner committed to academic endeavors of the highest caliber,” said USC President Steven B. Sample, who is an electrical engineer on the faculty of the USC Viterbi School.

“The Mork family’s naming gift will allow us to strengthen our research and teaching in fields of vital importance to society, while enabling faculty and students to collaborate across disciplines to develop chemical, biological and nanotechnology innovations that we’re only beginning to imagine today,” Sample said.

Dean Yannis Yortsos, a chemical engineer, said the departments of chemical engineering and materials science were merged to maximize faculty expertise and collaborative efforts.

“This gift, along with the merger, is propelling an exciting synergy of research interests among the chemical engineering, materials science and petroleum engineering faculty, and strengthening our teaching, particularly for undergraduates,” he said. “This is the only chemical engineering and materials science department to be named, and we have become a rare engineering school that has two named departments.”

Yortsos said a portion of the gift which coincides with the celebration of USC’s 125th anniversary and the school’s centennial will be used to support efforts to retain undergraduate students in petroleum engineering.

The gift is the second to name an engineering department at USC and one of several major gifts received by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering since the inception of its $300-million fund-raising initiative.

Mork and his wife, who live in Denver, built an oil and gas exploration and production company from the ground up. Today, Energy Corporation of America is an industry powerhouse with more than 5,000 gas-producing wells across the United States and New Zealand.

In 2002, Mork became a member of the Viterbi School Board of Councilors, and in 2003, he received the school’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

For more information on the department, visit http://chems.usc.edu/.