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Zebulun Nash: pragmatic idealist

Zebulun "Zeb" Nash, ChE'72, got interested in engineering as a kid, thanks in part to the space race. Three years after the Eagle landed, he earned his degree from Missouri S&T.

"That's something we need again in this country, a national emphasis on science and technology to get young people excited about careers in math and science," says Nash, who is a retired manager of ExxonMobil Chemical's plant in Baytown, Texas.

In addition to possessing many of the pragmatic qualities of the stereotypical engineer, Nash has always been something of an idealist. That's why he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya from 1976 to 1978. And that's why he continues to be a strong proponent of public higher education.

"I think the key need for all universities is to somehow change the mindset that higher education is not worth funding at the level needed," Nash says. "Too many people believe that it is the individual who mostly benefits, and should pay for it  rather than society benefiting."

That mix of idealism and pragmatism translates into tireless support for his alma mater, both as a volunteer and as a donor. Back in college, he was one of the original individuals who started raising funds for the creation of a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship at S&T. It took 20 years, but that scholarship endowment became a reality. Nash also established and still supports the Georgia Mae Smith Nash Endowed Scholarship, named to honor his mother.

A past president of the Miner Alumni Association, Nash is also a member of the Missouri S&T Board of Trustees and the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention.

Once, when S&T needed a speaker for freshman convocation but didn't have the funds to hire someone, Nash volunteered to do it for free. The speech, predictably, was filled with good information about what the incoming freshmen could expect along with a dose of idealism.

"I still remember one of the students coming up to me that morning, saying how homesick and afraid he had been, but that my talk made him feel better and now he was committed to staying," Nash recalls. "My eyes watered up. We don't often get moments like that in life."