File:Aplan, F. pf.jpg
Induction Category & YearProfessional 1998
Home TownFort Pierre, SD
Boulder, CO

   Frank Aplan
Champion of Excellence

 The year was 1933 when 10 year old Frank Aplan first became acquainted with Glen Martin, a house painter in Fort Pierre. This meeting was to spark Frank’s lifelong interest in science. Glen was a bachelor, and not particularly well versed in the ways of children but he must have seen something in the young boy in front of him, as he patiently and simply explained paint formulation. Glen had been a chemistry student at Iowa State University early in the century, but had to quit school when his father died. He maintained his intense interest in chemistry over the years and had his own chem lab at home. Shortly after their first meeting, Frank received a Gilbert Chemistry Set for Christmas, and Glen served as Frank’s consultant and mentor. They were to carry on extensive discussions on chemistry for the next decade.

Others in Fort Pierre also served to maintain Frank's interest in science, such as druggist Guy Loupe, high school science teacher, Dorothy Gillespie, and school superintendent and math teacher, S. M. Stockdale. Classmate Bill Porter, who was interested in electricity, radio and telegraphy, also helped by sharing his knowledge of these fields. <p>Throughout the 1930’s, Frank dreamed of going to the nation’s leading technical school, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, the school’s cost, high admission standards, and its location in far off Boston, made this an unattainable pipe dream. He never dreamed that two decades later he would receive the Doctor of Science degree in Metallurgy from MIT. <p>Not the least influence on Frank was his mother, Helen Fischer Aplan. Her husband had left and she had the job of raising Frank and his younger sister Carla and brother Jim. She had a tough job, especially during the depression, but she was always upbeat, supportive, enthusiastic and strongly encouraged reading, stick-to-itiveness, and the value of education. <p>After high school graduation in 1941, Frank entered the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. “Mines” was, and still is, a crown jewel for the State of South Dakota. Here, one could receive an economical, yet high-quality education. The school provided so many students with that helping hand, needed to succeed in a technical profession. Frank quickly found the college to be a challenging and stimulating place where good teaching abounded and everyone took great pride in the school. After taking a course in general metallurgy, taught by Professor Bancroft Gore, Frank decided that his life’s work would be in Metallurgical Engineering. Two of Fort Pierre’s successful metallurgical graduates from “Mines”, Zay Jeffries and Donald Ricketts, would serve as role models. Frank was also energized by the geology courses he took from Professor Paul Gries, who, years later, is still inspiring students at “Mines.” <p>On Nov. 2, 1942, Frank hitchhiked up to Fort Meade and enlisted in the Army. After finishing the school term, he was sent to basic infantry training and later assigned to the 69th Infantry Division for further training. Frank went overseas with his division in November 1944 and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II. He was discharged in 1946 as a T/Sgt. Holding the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star Medal and a couple of battle stars. <p>Frank re-entered “Mines” that fall and after Professors Gore’s death, he was stimulated by newly hired metallurgy Professor Jerry Van Duzee and Alex McHugh. Frank has long attested to the high quality education he received at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. <p>In the summer of 1946 and 1948 Frank was hired by Homestake’s Chief Metallurgist Nathaniel Herz to work in the South Mill and Cyanide plants as a laborer and relief operator. This was an excellent learning experience since Mr. Herz and his assistants, Frank Howell and Claude Schmidt, saw to it that he was moved around the entire milling operation. <p>For the balance of his professional career, Frank would alternate between academic life and work in industry. This would lead to a rather nomadic life but a fantastic learning experience. He has lived in places from Seattle to Boston, in 11 states and has been on foreign assignments. His activities included further education at Montana School of Mines (M.S., 1950) and MIT (Sc.D., 1957), university faculty positions at the University of Washington and at Penn State University and employment by five different corporations. In total, Dr. Frank Aplan has had 15 years of industrial experience in the mining, metallurgical and chemical industries, doing everything from plant operations through research and development. Further, Dr. Aplan has had over 30 years of academic experience emphasizing both teaching and research. <p>The highlight of this era was Frank's marriage in 1955 to Clare Marie Donaghue of Boston, MA. Today they have three grown children; Susan Bower a school phys. ed. teacher and girls track coach, Peter Aplan, M.D., a pediatric oncologist and Lucy Aplan a marine scientist. <p>After a decade with Union Carbide, where Frank rose from research engineer to group manager of mineral engineering research and development, he strove to achieve family permanency by accepting an offer as Professor and Department Head of Mineral Processing at The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. Since Dr. Aplan's arrival there in 1968, he has served at various times as department head, section chairman and distinguished professor. Dr. Frank Aplan is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus, and though retired, he still does some teaching, working with graduate students and authors some technical papers. <p>Arrival at Penn State presented Frank with a wonderful opportunity to modernize the mineral-processing program. His prior academic and industrial experience had exposed him to the possibilities of new directions, as had consultations with friends in the academic community, such as Doug Fuerstenau (University of California, Berkley) whom he has known since School of Mines days in 1946. Thus, Frank attracted new faculty, modified old courses and introduced new ones to broaden the curriculum and thus improve job opportunities for graduates from the program. He enthusiastically entered into undergraduate teaching and focused his research on the needs of industry and of society. Frank takes great pride in the nearly 50 graduate degree students trained under his direct supervision. <p>Dr. Frank Aplan emphasized environmental remediations by building on the past strengths of the existing academic program and an increased environmental emphasis in all courses. This was a logical extension of the program because the separation of metals and glass from municipal solid waste, the removal of acids and metals from water, ant the trapping of fine particles from industrial off-gases etc., etc., all require techniques that extractive metallurgical engineers have used long before environmentalism became popular. <p>In his spare time, Frank’s vocation is also his avocation. He has an extensive collection of books on the history and the ghost mines of the West, emphasizing on Black Hills mining and metallurgical history. He has taken several thousand photographs of the ruins of these long abandoned operations and correlates these with a literature search of the same operations in their heyday. <p>Dr. Aplan has received many professional honors, but he is proudest of his election to the National Academy of Engineering, the Guy E. March Medal of SDSM&T, and having an award named in his honor by The Engineering Foundation. <p>When asked his philosophy of life, Frank notes that a great many people help you along life’s way. It is often not possible to pay back all of these people for their kindness, but you can pay forward for helping someone else. <p>Dr. Frank Aplan was nominated for the South Dakota Hall of Fame by his sister, Carla Sahr of Pierre.

Home Town (Fort Pierre, SD)
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