In 1969 Dr. Gary April joined the University of Alabama’s department of chemical and biological engineering as an Assistant Professor. Prior to this career move, Dr. April worked in industry as a research engineer. Dr. April continued to work in the department for forty years. During that time, he ascended into numerous leadership roles within the university and externally. Most notably, he served as the State of Alabama’s Director of the Department of Energy program from 1992 to 2008. He also served as the Head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering before his retirement. While at the university, Dr. April led sustainability efforts through several innovative research projects focused on finding new ways to convert biomass and reduce waste. Additionally, Dr. April’s team conducted comprehensive investigations on the interactions between man-made reacting systems and natural bodies of water in the South.

Despite his many accomplishments as a researcher, Dr. April fell in love with the teaching component of his job. Initially, he viewed the struggles of students as self-inflicted. However, he experienced a paradigm shift when he discovered the importance of building relationships in teaching. Dr. April realized that each student is talented and possesses the motivation to do well, but does not always know how or does not always respond well to a certain teaching style. Hence, he made it a priority to get to know students on an individual level and took the initiative to explain concepts in a way that connected with every one of them. In other words, he went past teaching what to learn and did his best to guide each student on how he or she could best learn that information. Dr. April credits these efforts with his progression as a teacher throughout his career and is proud of the success it has engendered for his students. In 1995, twenty-eight students in Dr. April’s material and energy balance class earned As. He credits this level of academic excellence not just as a result of their hard work, but of their commitment to learning through teamwork and collaboration, and considers their success to be the “crowning achievement” of his teaching career.

Upon his retirement in 2007, Dr. April was designated as a Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering by the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees. In the following years, he continued to teach part time. In 2011, Dr. April became one of four founding members of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. This institution celebrates the tradition of innovation and achievement of engineers throughout the state and over the years has paid tribute to numerous graduates of the Capstone, including UA ChBE’s own Milton Davis. Hence, even in retirement, Dr. April has used his platform to honor engineers and foster an appreciation for the profession in the department, at the university, and beyond. His enthusiasm and dedication for his work and commitment to past, present, and future generations of chemical engineers are what make him a truly exceptional department fellow.