This past spring, the department made Ken Elliott (BS ’42) its latest edition to its Hall of Fame. Elliott, who died in 2011, attended classes at Tennessee Wesleyan College and would later add a graduate degree from Harvard Business School in 1972.
His career began after he graduated UT, when he take a train to Dallas and began work at the Socony Vacuum Oil Company for the highest salary offer out of several he had received: $165 per month.
Arriving at his job with the company’s field research laboratory, Elliott’s only possessions were in a portable wardrobe that his dad had given him.
It was several days before he could begin actually working with the company, since he was considered underage by the laws of Texas since he was only 20, which required that he get his parents’ signatures approving his employment.
His first job with the company was in a hydrofluoric acid alkylation pilot plant. There, he was part of a team tasked with improving the process to increase production of fuel, both in terms of overall output as well as by identifying new sources from which it could be made, each of crucial concern since World War II was ongoing at the time.
Following the war, he moved to the company’s location in Paulsboro, New Jersey, where he first worked to produce ethylene by racking propane. During his time there, he helped build a plant that was based on a new method of producing gasoline.
Elliott’s success with that led to a pair of brief, temporary stints at plants in Torrance, California and in Ferndale, Washington, where he duplicated his previous efforts. The company rewarded him by making him manager of the process research and development section upon his return to New Jersey.
He continued to research new methods of production for the company, which eventually went through several changes before becoming the Mobil Corporation. Elliott became vice president of engineering for the company in 1967, a title he would hold until his retirement in 1986.
Over that period of time, the number of employees he managed went from 200 to more than 800, with more than 200 Mobil patents in fuel and lubricant additives alone resulting from those scientists and engineers.
Still in a mode of trying to identify potential new sources for the company to use to produce fuel and other products, he focused on deep water environments of the North Sea, the coast of Canada, and off Alaska. The techniques they developed are still used today. Elliott and his wife Ginny would later create the Kenneth M. Elliott
Chemical Engineering Scholarship Endowment as a measure of supporting the university and as a sign of their love of it.