Lawrence B. Evans

Born: October 27, 1934 | Fort Sumner, NM, US

Lawrence Evans begins his oral history by describing his parents and the important influence that his father had in shaping an interest in the sciences. He discusses his early education and the decision to major in chemical engineering at the undergraduate level and continuing his graduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. After receiving his PhD he came to MIT as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering with funding through the Ford Foundation. Evans became increasingly more interested in discovering how computers can be used to solve chemical engineering problems. He talks of the formation of the CACHE committee, the work of the committee, and how he eventually became president of the group. He discusses in detail the Aspen Project and the subsequent the formation, expansion, and successes of AspenTech. Evans reflects on his introduction to Javier Garcia-Martinez, and his decision to help establish a company based on Garcia-Martinez’s technology, Rive Technology. The oral history concludes with Evans reflecting on what the future holds for him as well as reflecting back on the values/principles that have guided his life’s work.

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 1085
No. of pages: 105
Minutes: 380

Interview Sessions

Richard Ulrych and Robert O. Kenworthy
18 January 2012
Rive Technology Corporate Headquarters, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

In his oral history Lawrence Evans begins by describing his parents and early life in New Mexico and Oklahoma. He describes the important influence that his father, a pharmacist by training, had in shaping an interest in the sciences. He talks about his early education and the decision to major in chemical engineering at the undergraduate level and to eventually pursue graduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. He describes the graduate program at UM and his early encounters with computers and computer programming.

Evans tells how after receiving his PhD he came to MIT as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering with funding through a two-year fellowship from the Ford Foundation. He talks about his early teaching at MIT, his early graduate students, and some consulting work he did. He tells how he became increasingly more interested in discovering how computers can be used to solve chemical engineering problems, and talks about his efforts to increase his knowledge in this area through research and writing. He talks of the formation of the CACHE committee, the work of the committee, and how he eventually became president of the group. He discusses in detail the Aspen Project and his decision at the end of the project to form a company based on Aspen’s work. He notes that he was inspired in this by the example of others at MIT who had successfully gone on to careers as entrepreneurs. He describes the formation of AspenTech and names many of the key early players and investors. He describes how AspenTech was able to expand; its early Europe focused strategy; its success against ChemShare and Simulation Sciences; its IPO, and other key events in the history of the firm. Evans provides a frank description of SEC actions with regard to him and several executives at AspenTech. He talks of his departure from AspenTech in 2005; his presidency of AIChE, his introduction to Javier Garcia-Martinez, and his decision to help establish a company based on Garcia-Martinez’s technology, Rive Technology. The oral history concludes with Evans reflecting on what the future holds for him as well as reflecting back on the values/principles that have guided his life’s work.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1956 University of Oklahoma BS Chemical Engineering
1957 University of Michigan MSE Chemical Engineering
1962 University of Michigan PhD Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1962 to 1968
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
1968 to 1974
Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
1972 to 1974
Executive Officer of Chemical Engineering Department
1974 to 1990
Professor of Chemical Engineering
1976 to 1981
Principal Investigator of the Advanced System for Process Engineering (ASPEN) Project, MIT

Independent Consultant

1962 to 1981

Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering (CACHE)

1971 to 1974
Member, CACHE Committee, National Academy of Engineering
1974
CoFounder, CACHE Corporation
1974 to 1980
Executive Officer and Treasurer, CACHE Corporation

Aspen Technology, Inc.

1981
Founder
1981 to 2002
Chairman and CEO
2002 to 2004
Chairman
2005
Retirement

Rive Technology, Inc.

2006
CoFounder
2006 to 2012
CEO

Honors

Year(s) Award
1966 to 1967

United Engineers and Constructors Preceptorship

1978

Elected Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Engineering of Mexico

1979

Merck, Sharp and Dohme Lecturer, University of Puerto Rico

1980

Donald L. Katz Lectureship, University of Michigan

1982

Computing and Systems Technology Division Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)

1997

Entrepreneur of the Year, New England High Technology

1999

Named one of seven US. Heroes of Manufacturing, FORTUNE

1999

Alumni Society Merit Award, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering

2001

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

2002

Award for Personal Achievement in Chemical Engineering, Chemical Engineering magazine

2003

Elected, University Of Oklahoma College Of Engineering Distinguished Graduates Society member

2003

Engineering Achievement Award, Engineering Construction Contracting Association

2011

Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industrries, Science History Institute

Table of Contents

“I’m a native of New Mexico, but I grew up in Oklahoma.”
1

Born in Fort Sumner, New Mexico in 1934 to Marval Darrow and Ruby Lee Lyon Evans. Parents’ backgrounds. Early years in New Mexico and Oklahoma. Household valuing education. Time in high school; graduated as valedictorian. Father nurturing Evans’ love of chemistry; father’s work at the drug store as well as teaching; father’s experiments at home. High school chemistry and physics. Labs at the Central State University.

College Years
7

Father teaching at the Central State University. Reason for choosing chemical engineering as major. Transferring to University of Oklahoma. Pledging Phi Kappa Psi at OU. Influential professors. First job in chemical engineering during his junior year, Shell Oil. Deciding what path to take after graduation: to enter the workforce or to attend graduate school. Advice from father and peers to attend graduate school. Decision to pursue a doctoral degree.

Graduate School, University of Michigan
15

Traveling to Michigan without housing plans. Living in the Phi Kappa Psi house. Description of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan: professors, students, fraternity, courses. Working at IBM’s Applied Science Group in Houston, Texas, Summer 1957. Passing qualifying exam and selecting a thesis topic, 1958. Conducting thesis research without financial support.

“Michigan was great. MIT was terrific.”
28

Fellowship position at MIT’s Chemical Engineering Department as an assistant professor, Fall 1962. One of the only staff in his department without a PhD from MIT. Early research, courses, and graduate students at MIT. Marriage to Beverley Ann Broughton. Original two-year appointment at MIT extended one year, then for three years more. Obtaining tenure in 1970. Student protests, faculty reactions. Camaraderie among MIT faculty.

Establishing a Name for Himself While at MIT
35

Consulting work while at MIT. Aspen Project at MIT with Paul Gallier, Joe Boston, and Herb Britt. David Koch’s role. Process Simulation Associates. Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering (CACHE); formation of and involvement with the CACHE Committee. Making FLOWTRAN system available for use in education. Development of CACHE Corporation. Programs submitted to CACHE. Comparing the early use of computers in industry versus academia.

Aspen to the Rescue—The Energy Crisis
46

1973 Energy Crisis. Department of Energy funding to develop a next-generation simulation software system for synthetic fuel plants. Beginning of the Aspen Project at MIT. Monsanto selling Aspen the rights to the FLOWTRAN program, putting FLOWTRAN in the public domain. Aspen housed in the historic Building 20 at MIT. Members of the Project. Aspen’s Advisory Committee: representatives from 50 companies; their responses to the project. Evans takes the lead as the Principal Investigator. Overcoming obstacles

Aspen Tech—"We Captured People's Imagination."
57

Founding AspenTech in 1981. Early subscriptions to Aspen Plus. Early competition. AspenTech expands outside the United States. Overcoming challenges in 1983. AspenTech software entering the mainstream. AspenWorld conferences. Postponing an IPO in 1990. Successful IPO in 1994. Reflections on changes at MIT over the years. Decision to resign position at MIT and devote full-time to AspenTech. AspenTech acquires companies, 1994-2001. The Internet’s effect on AspenTech.

Having the Mindset to Run a Company
77

Stepping down as CEO of AspenTech, 2002. Retirement from AspenTech’s Board, 2005. Reflections on greatest accomplishments while at Aspen. Management style over the years. Investigation of AspenTech financial reporting 2004.

Breaking the Record as the Oldest Entrepreneur in the Room
84

Formation of Rive Technology, 2005. Javier García-Martínez and Zeolite. Setting up labs for Rive. Collaboration with W.R. Grace. Presidency of AIChE and implementing the AIChE strategic plan. Past involvement with AIChE. Future plans after a retirement from Rive. “If you look at my career, it hasn’t had a laser-focused direction. It’s been a series of different things.”

Index
101

About the Interviewer

Richard Ulrych

Richard Ulrych was the director of institutional grants and strategic projects at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Robert O. Kenworthy

Bob Kenworthy is a chemist who, after over four decades of employment in the chemical industry at DuPont, Rollins Environmental Services and elsewhere, was retained by the Science History Institute as its Manager of Affiliate Relations.