Costel 'Cos' Denson '56 '15H (1934-2018), the first African American graduate of Lehigh and a widely respected expert in polymer engineering and fluid mechanics, was an engineering pioneer, a scholar, a leader, and a mentor of the highest distinction; he left a legacy of impact in research, in education, and in breaking down barriers to the academic and industrial pursuit of science and engineering.

Denson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Lehigh in 1956. During his time at Lehigh, he was captain of the university fencing team and a member of the track and field team. He continued his education in the field of Chemical Engineering, earning his master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1960 and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1965. Denson returned to Lehigh in 1968, serving as a visiting professor. He has also worked as visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Naples.

Denson built a wealth of experience through working in industry, including a lengthy and successful career at General Electric. While at GE, Denson worked in research and development, managing the polymer research division and development in major appliance business sector. Following his work at GE, Denson joined the engineering faculty in 1977 at the University of Delaware as professor of Chemical Engineering, and later, served as the college's Dean of Engineering and Vice Provost for Research.

Denson has served on numerous advisory boards, including the U.S. Department of Defense's Scientific Advisory Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board and the National Research Council's Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicity. He was active in the Society of Rheology, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served on a 12-member executive committee of the Society of Plastics Engineers. Denson was also a member of the National Science Foundation and served on a panel judging major proposals from across the country submitted under a teacher enhancement program in the area of Mathematics, Science and Technology education. He also served as Managing Member at Delaware-based Costech Technologies, LLC.

Denson's honors include the Thomas H. Chilton Award of the Wilmington section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the International Award for Research of the Society of Plastics Engineers. He was also author or co-author to over 30 articles in professional journals and holds two patents. Denson returned to Lehigh in 2015 to receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

Costel Denson
Monday, January 1, 1934
New Brighton, Pennsylvania
Date of Death: 
Monday, April 23, 2018
B.S. Chemical Engineering
Notable Achievement: 
Dean of Engineering and Vice Provost for Research, University of Delaware; First African-American to graduate from Lehigh University