Marshall Rafal ChE’63
Running for: Alumni Trustee
I am seeking the position of Trustee because I believe I have the background to make a strong contribution to The Board. If accorded your trust, I will bring 47 years of experience, founding a high-tech computer software company and nurturing it from inception to global prominence. This experience enables me to leverage my strength in connecting and empathizing with people of all ages. Finally, the very thing that enabled my success in business, the ability to persevere against all odds, resonates powerfully with President Sparks’ mission to bring Cooper Union back to free tuition while never compromising on the quality of the education provided to its students.
I powerfully identify as the son of an immigrant, who was unable to support the cost of my higher education, which led me to seek an incredible, free education at Cooper Union from which everything in my career followed. Cooper Union was founded by Peter Cooper to provide a free, quality higher education to people of limited means, including immigrants and women. My free education at Cooper, enabled me to study chemical engineering, which led to my PhD in ChE at Northwestern and then to founding and running a company providing software for chemical engineering applications worldwide.
Six years ago, when it became apparent that Cooper Union would have to receive tuition from its students for the first time in its history, I was powerfully motivated to meet with the then incoming President Laura Sparks and learn of the ten-year mission to restore free tuition to the school. I sought a way to be a small cog in this effort. I chose to provide annual support to cover the tuition of one chemical engineering student and have done so for the past five years.
The year that I reengaged with Cooper Union, I made the acquaintance of first-year Professor of Chemical Engineering, Amanda Simson. Because of my career in the thermodynamics of electrolyte solutions, she invited to provide an annual lecture in her Advanced Thermodynamics Course and that led to engaging with Cooper’s amazing young students. A year ago, she and I discovered a mutual passion for reading on the world’s climate crisis, which motivated me to found an Alumni Climate Affinity Group (ACAG) support programs for Cooper’s students who are motivated to be part of addressing the issue of global warming/climate change.
I am honored to be considered for this position of Trustee.
Marshall Rafal’s career started with five years at Esso Math and Engineering where he honed skills in the application of the digital computer to simulating real world chemical engineering plant systems. In 1971, Marshall founded OLI Systems, Inc., which is now in its 52nd year of operation. CEO until 2017, Marshall helped to create a unique thermophysical properties engine and databank to support simulation of plant systems throughout the chemical process industries. OLI’s specialty is its unique ability to predict the behavior of electrolytic chemical systems to enable applications to process simulation as well as corrosion. Perhaps the most gratifying outcome of this effort has been the application of OLI software to address environmental sustainability. After stepping down as CEO in 2017, Marshall has continued as OLI’s Chairman.
Marshall was also the recipient in 2002, of The AIChE CAST Award for lifetime achievement in Computing Practice.