Written by Cameron Walker
This week, the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) announced Dr. Peter Hauser, professor in the department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS), as the 2017 recipient of the Olney Medal Award for his myriad contributions to the textile industry in both industry and academia. The Olney Medal was established in 1944 in honor of AATCC founder and first president Louis Atwell Olney; it is awarded once per year to a leader in the field in recognition of outstanding achievement in textile or polymer chemistry.
“I was thrilled to learn that the AATCC Olney Medal Committee had unanimously chosen Dr. Peter Hauser to be this year’s recipient of the Olney Medal, the highest award provided by AATCC,” said John Y. Daniels, executive vice president of AATCC. “I have known Peter for many years and have followed his career at Milliken Research, Burlington Industries, The Virkler Company and now the Wilson College of Textiles. Throughout his professional career, Peter has been an active member and friend to AATCC.”
Education and Career
Though his graduate studies were focused on inorganic chemistry, Hauser has textiles in his blood. His father and grandfather owned knitting mills in Queens, New York; when he was 10 years old, his father moved the mill — and the family — to Kings Mountain, North Carolina.
He is a double alumnus of NC State, earning his B.S. in Chemistry in 1969 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1974. After graduation, he worked as an industrial research chemist for nearly a quarter century at companies including the Milliken Research Corporation and Burlington Industries. He was always interested in teaching, and he seized the opportunity to join the faculty of NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles as an associate professor in 1997; he became director of graduate programs and associate department head in 2004, full professor in 2005 and interim department head of TECS from 2015 to 2017.
Over the years, Hauser has written three book chapters and one book on chemical textile finishing, authored or co-authored 120 peer-reviewed papers and edited two books on textile wet processing. He has been a technical consultant on many projects and has served as an expert witness for patent litigation. He is co-recipient of 10 U.S. patents, has given nearly one hundred research presentations and has mentored more than 50 graduate students.
He has enjoyed the challenge of developing new textile treatments, including cationic bleach activators for cotton bleaching and most recently, the use of atmospheric pressure plasma for textile finishing. However, he considers the students he has advised to be the biggest achievement of his career.
“The students that I’ve worked with and mentored — to see them go on to be successful in their careers is an accomplishment,” said Hauser. “It’s kind of like they’re my academic children. I’ve worked with them, mentored them and am justifiably proud of their accomplishments.”
“Textiles is a global industry, and if you get involved in textiles, you have an opportunity to travel around the world,” said Hauser. “I’ve probably been to 30 countries just from working in textiles. I’ve been to the Great Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower. You just have that great opportunity — depending of course on what type of position you’re in — and you don’t just have to sit behind a desk in one place. You can actually see the world.”
He has eaten squid ink in Brazil and goose foot in China, viewed the ancient Sphinx through the window of a modern Pizza Hut in Cairo, Egypt, and was stranded next to his broken-down vehicle in the mountains of Pablo Escobar-era Colombia. But now he’s ready for a different type of adventure; as he nears retirement, he plans to spend more time with his family, including his wife, Helen, their three sons and four grandchildren.
“Peter is an individual that appreciates the many opportunities and responsibilities he has held in industry and academia,” said Daniels. “He is one that generously gives back. I have known (him) to be an excellent researcher as well as a good friend and mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students throughout his professional career. I also know of his teaching prowess and his love for educating young professionals. There is no one more deserving of receiving the Olney Medal that celebrates life-long achievement in textile chemistry, and I am honored to call Peter a friend.”
Hauser has made many friendships and connections through AATCC, where he has been a member since 1977. He served as President of the association (and chair of the AATCC Foundation Board of Directors) from 2013 to 2014 and was chair of the Appropriations Committee from 2015 to 2016. He currently serves on the Foundation Board, as well as the Appropriations, Building and Grounds, and Employee Benefits Committees, and is a past or present member of several research committees. He is also a member of the American Chemical Society, the Society of Dyers and Colourists and the Textile Institute.
He joins the ranks of fellow Wilson College of Textiles professors who have won the Olney Medal, including Dr. Charles F. Goldthwait, in 1962; Henry A. Rutherford, in 1974; Dr. Ralph McGregor, in 1984; Dr. Harold S. Freeman in 2004; Rolf G. Kuehni, in 2005; Dr. Keith R. Beck, in 2006; and Dr. C. Brent Smith in 2007. He will accept the Olney Medal at the Awards Luncheon during the AATCC International Conference on March 8, 2018 and will deliver the Olney Medal Address that morning; the title for his talk is “Cationized Cotton: Opportunities and Challenges.”
“I’ve had a really great career and I’ve enjoyed most of it,” laughed Hauser. “I really enjoy teaching and working with young people, with their energy and enthusiasm…I hope that my students and I have made the world a little bit better.”