be_ixf;ym_202309 d_26; ct_50

2016 CLARK AWARD: Science prof awarded Evangel’s highest honor for academic excellence

Published on May 29, 2016 by Paul K. Logsdon

Career as pioneer in research and engineering prepared Fortunato for the classroom

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Dr. Fred Fortunato is the 2016 recipient of Evangel University’s top honor for faculty — the E.M. & Estella Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service.

The 2016 Clark Award includes a cash grant and was presented on May 6, during Evangel’s 58th Annual Commencement ceremony.

Fortunato began teaching at Evangel in 2006, after having worked more than 25 years in the chemical engineering industry for companies such as Exxon, BFGoodrich and PPG.

In the ensuing ten years, he has earned a reputation for being tough, but exceptionally dedicated to his students.

2016-05.06 Fortunato, Clark Award-PKL
Dr. Fred Fortunato was honored to be presented with Evangel University’s highest academic honor. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) // PHOTO BY: Paul K. Logsdon

“My goal is to work as hard, or harder, than my students for each course I teach. My greatest joy is to see a student’s eyes light up when they understand a particularly difficult concept,” said Fortunato, who holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University.

“Fred shows extreme diligence to perform every aspect of his work with excellence,” remarked Dr. Michael Tenneson, chair of the Department of Natural and Applied Science. “He is always here and is always available to help his students.”

Jozette Ausbury works with those students on a daily basis as the department’s administrative assistant, and she believes he is an ideal choice for the 2016 Clark Award. “Fred is invested in helping students succeed. Early or late, he is here when they need him.”

Sadie Land, a biology major from Arlington, Texas, has worked as Fortunato’s student assistant for the past year. “There are not words to explain how much you have impacted me as a student, worker and person,” she said. “You tirelessly serve and do it with a full heart.”

The Clark Award was established in 1991 by Dan and Elaine Johnson, in recognition of her parents’ work on behalf of higher education in the Assemblies of God, as well as their special affection for Evangel University.

Students, faculty and staff submit nominations, and a committee makes the final decision.

A groundbreaking career — shale oil to nanotechnology

Fortunato has spent most of his life exploring new boundaries.

“Technology has been an integral part of my life, both as a student and a professional scientist/engineer,” he said. “I enjoy understanding how things work, and spent my industrial career developing things no one else ever tried to do.”

As early as 1981, Fortunato was responsible for the experimental design and supervision of a pilot plant program at Exxon’s Research and Development Labs in Baton Rouge, La., where they were working on removing contaminants and upgrading shale liquids to high quality crude oil.

A decade later, he was an expert in the development of carbon/carbon composite and carbon fiber materials. He worked for Aircraft Braking Systems in Akron, Ohio, where he “provided technical support for developing new formulations and fabrication methods for carbon/carbon (C/C) composites used in aircraft braking applications,” he said.

The 1990s were spent with PPG Industries developing new technologies in automotive and architectural glass coatings, surface treatments and process scale-up.

During his last few years before joining Evangel, he served as vice president of the Process Development division of nGimat Co. (formerly MicroCoating Technologies, Inc.), developing technologies and nanomaterials for high tech applications.

Classroom applications

Fortunato’s years of experience with a variety of companies, covering a myriad of technologies, made him uniquely qualified to teach in both the technical and business fields.

When he first moved to Springfield, he was introduced to members of Evangel’s business faculty. As a result, he was hired as an adjunct (part-time) professor in the Business Department for its Adult Studies and Masters of Organizational Leadership programs.

“I taught operations management in the MOL program in the summer of 2006,” he said. “This was a natural fit, since I had performed extensive operations work in my industrial career.”

However, he was quickly hired fulltime as a professor of science, when it was discovered that he was qualified to teach courses such as organic chemistry, thermodynamics and engineering physics.

“While the course material is difficult, I try to challenge students without breaking their will to succeed,” Fortunato said, “Once they start to find success, I just guide their study towards more success. I hope the students will say that my courses were difficult, but I gave them many opportunities to excel if they chose to do so.”

Many students were saddened to learn that Fortunato is retiring this summer and will be moving back to the Atlanta, Ga., area to be near his children and grandchildren.

On a giant card, students expressed their appreciation.

“Your work ethic and tenacity are unmatchable. Thank you for seeing the potential in me and pushing me to strive for the best,” wrote one.

“You’re a wonderful example of how dedication and hard work pay off,” wrote another. “Not only am I a better scientist for learning under you, I am a better Christian.”

In his spare time, Fred taught at Evangel University’s James River Leadership campus; he serves on the parking lot team at James River Church; and he has also been the Southern Missouri District and Gulf Regional coordinator with Teen Bible Quiz competitions for the Assemblies of God.

Fred has been married to his wife, Belinda, for 40 years. They have three grown children, the youngest of which is an Evangel graduate (Gina ’14 Marlar), and three grandchildren.

He is looking forward to spending more time with the family, but he has not ruled out “teaching a class or two somewhere in the Atlanta area, once we get settled,” he added with a smile.