Alumni & Friends

Recognition Awards

Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award


Melville Marnix

Class of 1946


Melville Marnix Humanness and the high quality of instruction. That’s what Melville J. Marnix said are among his fondest memories of “Basement University,” the former Arkansas City Junior College.


Marnix, an Arkansas City native who now lives in Lewiston, N.Y., had always planned to attend “juco” in Arkansas City. “Back in those days college money was rather tight,” Marnix said. “And when you talked to people at KU (University of Kansas) and K-State (Kansas State University), they strongly recommended attending junior college at the time. “I found out much later the quality of education was just as good, often times better, than at the four-year school.”


Marnix enrolled at ACJC in the fall of 1942 and immediately joined the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve Corps. He was called to duty in World War II about seven weeks into the spring semester of 1943. The war had interrupted school. “From then until February of 1946, Uncle Sam kept us busy,” Marnix said. Busy, yes, but Marnix was laying the foundation for a 34-year career with Union Carbide as a chemical engineer.


Marnix was declared essential to the U.S. Army in the training of future troops and was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., after spending time overseas. His complaining to his commanding officer paid off and he was discharged from the Army to go back to school. He picked up at ACJC where he left off nearly three years earlier. Marnix said he never forgot the education he received at the two-year school. “The thing I remember most about it was the humanness of the staff,” Marnix said. “That, coupled with high quality instruction. I have had contact with a good number of colleges as a student and as a recruiter, and I’m still impressed with Cowley.” Three long-time ACJC staffers influenced Marnix the most. “Gaye Iden always had a positive attitude for people and she seemed to be able to see 10 to 15 years into the future,” he said. “Paul Johnson was a big help to me getting my feet back on the ground after the war. The one I could always remember was my neighbor for many years, Edith Joyce Davis. I did many chores for her as a young lad next door. We’d always stop by to see her. She could always remember everything you did for her.”


After ACJC it was on to Kansas State for Marnix. He received his degree in chemical engineering from KSU in 1949 and accepted a position as an instructor in the department of chemical engineering. In September 1951, Union Carbide came calling. “My office was a happy one for recruiters at Kansas State,” he said. “I had offers from several companies. Carbide came through and I liked the recruiter and he made sense. What I saw at Tonawanda impressed me. They made me an offer on the spot. I never regretted it. “After the war I was evaluating German industry to get it going again. I talked to a lot of people at the forefront of synthetic fuels. I decided that’s what I wanted.”


Marnix began with Union Carbide’s Linde Division, Research and Engineering Laboratory in Tonawanda, N.Y. For the next 34 years, Marnix was on the cutting edge of science and technology in both research and engineering. Seventeen of those years were spent in engineering and research management. “It’s one of the best organizations in the world to work for,” Marnix said. “It seems like every time I was ready to make a step up, there was always a job for me.


Certainly, the Tonawanda research facility is one of the outstanding research facilities in the United States.”


Marnix said many of the opportunities afforded him in the development of new technologies hold true for today’s youth. “It’s a great thing for young people today,” he said. “There are a lot of needs for young people to get out there and do the job. There are plenty of jobs if they hustle, and that doesn’t hurt.”


At the end of 1985, Marnix said goodbye to Union Carbide. And for the past 10 years he has been a self-employed consultant, a husband, father, and grandfather.

Marnix’ wife is the former Shirley Gilliland, also an Arkansas City native. They soon will be married 48 years. Shirley was president of the ACJC class of 1948. “She’s the smart one in the family,” Marnix said. “I don’t know what I’d have done without her.”


Marnix and his family have lived in Lewiston, N.Y., for many years. The Canadian border is about a mile to the west, with Lake Ontario directly north. Marnix thought he wanted to stay in education, but his eyes were opened after a short time. “One of the things you soon find in a technical school is the professors who can really speak with authority are the ones who have gone out and got some experience,” he said. “Then I realized it was like talking about something you’d only seen at arm’s distance. This was the right time to get that industrial experience. Honestly, I got out there and got taste of application and technology and business. It wasn’t hard to go to work every day.”


Through the years, Marnix has never forgotten the education he received at ACJC. And he has become an ambassador of sorts for the community college concept.


“I’ve advised many young people as they go to universities and I tell them not to overlook community colleges,” he said. One of Marnix’ greatest moments occurred with Union Carbide in the 1950s and 1960s when he was appointed to a committee to get Erie County Technical School off the ground. Now, barely 40 years old, Erie has five campuses, is part of the state university system of New York, and offers a full liberal arts as well as technical curriculum. And Marnix is proud to have been asked by the chancellor of the University of Buffalo to add to the curriculum in the engineering school. He helped develop a three credit hour course in the graduate school.


For all Marnix has done, he has followed some simple, yet sound, advice.


“A man’s a fool if he spends half of his waking hours at something he doesn’t like,” he said. “There is so much opportunity out there. If you go to work for money, you won’t find happiness.”