Bob Handelman

Robert Handelman, who earned a master's degree in chemical engineering from UA, remains in touch with faculty members from his time on campus, and he has endowed student and faculty awards in the name of his companies, Chemstress Construction Company and Chemstress Consulting Company.

Robert Handelman:

Giving back moves college forward

Like so many University of Akron graduates, Robert Handelman was the first in his family to go to college. His education has been a gift that keeps on giving — to him, his family, his employees and to UA.

Today, he is CEO of Chemstress Construction Company, a full-service industrial design build firm, as well as CEO of Chemstress Consultant Company, a full-service engineering and architectural design build organization that services many of the world’s top industries. Both companies are headquartered in Akron.

The Chemstress Consultant Company was founded in 1965, while Handelman was attending graduate school at The University of Akron. He had earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Iowa State University in 1962.

As a young entrepreneur, Handelman says he first recognized much of what UA had to offer.

“The University had superior strengths in rubber chemistry and polymers. I realized that I had a lot more to learn,” recalls Handelman, who earned an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from UA in 1970. “I learned a tremendous amount from the faculty and became a much better chemical engineer as a result.”

Enduring relationships

Handelman has maintained close ties to UA.

“I wanted to keep up with advances and stay close to the faculty members I knew. I continue to have close relations with existing members of the faculty.”

He hopes that his continuing involvement serves as a small example for other College of Engineering alumni. “There are so many ways in which our alumni can contribute to the betterment of our fine students,” says Handelman.

Over the years, he has endowed The Chemstress Consultant Company Outstanding Student Award in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for both undergraduate and graduate students and the Outstanding Teacher Award. Currently, Handelman serves as chairman of the College of Engineering Advancement Council.  He has served on numerous committees and boards, including The University of Akron Foundation Board of Directors.

By investing in future generations of engineers, he is also carrying forward the example set by his own father, Julius. The elder Handelman encouraged his son, from a young age, to go to college and to become an engineer, and then worked long hours to help put him through school.

In 2008, the College of Engineering recognized Handelman’s history and his ongoing support when it opened a new faculty resource room — The Julius Handelman Chemstress Faculty Center.

It is a tribute from a grateful son.

“I have always felt very positive about the college,” notes Handelman, who also has hired many UA engineering graduates. “What the college did for me, it does for a lot of its students. It has extremely fine programs, implemented by a committed and talented faculty. The college is loaded with dedicated and talented students. That is good for the University, all of its students and very good for our community!”

Story by Joette Dignan Weir, UA Institutional Marketing