Chemical Engineering Alumnus Gives Back to the Department
Jerry Forest never imagined a degree in chemical engineering would lead him to a successful career in process safety.
Forest, a 1984 LSU alumnus, has over 30 years of experience in process safety with a strong manufacturing background in isocyanates, hydrazine propellants and refining at Celanese Corporation and at previous companies LyondellBasell and Olin.
Forest currently works as a global process safety manager for Celanese. He oversees the management system and helps build the culture and provide technical support to all of the Celanese locations, which includes 25 manufacturing sites in 12 countries.
The 56-year-old Lake Charles native was hired as an adjunct lecturer for Introduction to Plant Design and Process Safety at LSU’s College of Engineering.
Forest said Kerry Dooley, a professor in the chemical engineering department, asked him for help in teaching developmental process safety. Forest was the CCPS industry chair for the Process Safety textbook used in university engineering curriculum to teach process safety.
But Forest saw this as the perfect opportunity to give back.
“I wouldn’t have a global role in process safety if it had not been for the background I got at LSU,” Forest said. “It is really that simple.”
Forest decided to give back to LSU through the set-up of an endowed scholarship. He will donate his LSU salary to the College of Engineering to help others.
“Doing lectures and donating the money to an endowed scholarship is something my wife and I always wanted to do,” He said. “Education is one of our core values. She is a college professor as well, so it just made sense for us to do this.”
Jerry Forest met his wife, Sharron, while they were both studying chemical engineering at LSU.
Forest said after graduation, there were no jobs available, so the couple decided to become teachers in the East Baton Rouge School System. Sharron Forest eventually went back to school to obtain a doctorate degree in nursing, and is currently teaching at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston Texas, while Jerry Forest went on to pursue his passion for engineering.
Forest’s first engineering job was with Olin Corporation. The company also paid for his master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University.
He explained in the 1990s he was in site management for Olin and the company wanted to interconnect chemical engineering and culture. At the time, Forest was also responsible for public relations and community involvement. The company paid for his degree and he went on to publish a paper on process safety progress on how to measure process safety culture.
Forest has had many accomplishments over the course of his career. During his seven years at Celanese, he’s worked with China’s State Administration of Workers Safety (SAWS) and became the co-chair of a group that developed process safety guidelines in China.
In addition to this, Forest said he created a successful initiative at Celanese called Walk the Line. The program prevents operating errors and spills of chemicals that occur due to operator line up failure. Roughly 40 different companies in the United States have adopted the program.
“My goal is to eliminate operator line up error in industry,” Forest said. “We are actually making this progress as an industry and it has been quite rewarding.”
Forest never imagined his choices would have led him to doing something he absolutely loves.
“I have a pretty long resume,” He said. “Deleting everything off my resume and just putting that I was an adjunct lecturer in chemical engineering means more to me than any other accomplishment I’ve had.”
# # #
Raven Nichols, communications intern, LSU College of Engineering