Merlin Vannice

Obituary of Merlin Albert Vannice

Dr. Merlin Albert "Al" Vannice, 81, of Boalsburg, passed away on Monday, April 15, 2024, at Geisinger Medical Center.

Born January 11, 1943, in Broken Bow, NE, he was the son of the late Duane M. and Eugenia Ruby Farmer Vannice. He spent most of his childhood growing up in a small ranch outside Halsey, NE where he attended high school (19 students) through 11th grade. He then went to East Lansing, MI for his senior year and then to Michigan State University where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering in 1964. Al migrated west to California to obtain his MA and PhD from Stanford University in 1966 and 1968, respectfully. Upon completion of his doctorate, he embarked on a 15-month postdoctoral position at Sun Oil Company in Marcus Hook, PA. The most important occurrence there was meeting his future wife, Bette Ann Clark.

They were married on January 2, 1971 and after a 6-week honeymoon to the West Coast and Hawaii, they both began jobs at Esso Oil (now Exxon) in Linden, NJ. Having an unfulfilled desire to teach, he began an appointment as associate professor at Pennsylvania State University in the fall of 1976. Al was promoted to full professor in 1990. In addition, Al received the College of Engineering Research Award in 1982, the title of distinguished Alumni Professor as well as the College of Engineering Premier Research Award in 1986, the title of Distinguished Professor of Engineering in 1991, the M.R. Fenske Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1996 and in 2002 was appointed the W. H. Joyce Chair in Chemical Engineering, which position he held until his retirement in 2006.

Dr. Vannice belonged to ACS, AIChE, had served first as Secretary and then as Director of the New York Catalysis Society, Director of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society and had served on the Board of Directors of, as the Vice-President of, and then as President of the North American Catalysis Society. He spent seven years as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Catalysis, and continued to serve on its Editorial Board.

During his tenure at PSU, Al presided over 26 M.S. and 32 PhD theses, published over 230 papers, was granted 9 patents and wrote a book. He and Bette Ann enjoyed 4 sabbatical leaves: CNRS in Orleans, France (1982-83); at the KFA in Jülich, Germany (1990) on a Humboldt Sr. Scientist Award; the University of Munich in Munich, Germany via a Fulbright Sr. Award and Humboldt Revisitation award; and finally, the University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain (2003-04) where he wrote his textbook "Kinetics of Catalytic Reactions".

External to Penn State, Al was awarded the New York Catalysis Society Award in 1985, the AIChE Professional Progress Award in 1986, the Catalysis Society Emmett Award in 1987 and the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society Award in 1988.

When he wasn't involved with university work, he enjoyed fishing, reading and antique classic cars, owning 16 at one time.

As a consequence of his research, Al was privileged to visit numerous foreign countries including Korea, China, Japan and most European countries. At least once a year, Bette Ann would prepare a big meal for all of his graduate students and post-doc research groups, which they always enjoyed.

Al is survived by his wife, Bette Ann; his brother Eugene Vannice; 4 nieces and nephews.

A graveside service will be held at the Broken Bow Cemetery, in Broken Bow Nebraska.

Memorial contributions in remembrance of Al may be made to Centre County Paws at

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences may be entered at

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