Endowed scholarship at MSU Texas to honor 1963 graduate Johnny Walbrick

First Hardin Scholar honored

Endowed scholarship at MSU Texas to honor 1963 graduate Johnny Walbrick

The early 1960s were an exciting time for young Johnny Walbrick. He was a student at Midwestern University, a double math/chemistry major, and planning on teaching. But in 1970, Walbrick said his life took a different turn, a turn he feels was divine in nature.

He accepted a job in research and development at Merichem, a Houston-based company that extracted valuable chemical components out of waste streams. Now, in gratitude for Walbrick’s years of dedication and leadership at Merichem, the company is establishing the Johnny M. Walbrick Endowed Scholarship at MSU Texas in his honor.

Walbrick was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and attended Wichita Falls Senior High. He graduated magna cum laude from Midwestern in 1963, receiving a B.S. degree with a double major in chemistry and mathematics. He was the first Hardin Scholar, an award established during the 1961-62 year to honor a student whose scholastic achievements and participation in University activities brought distinction to both the student and the University. Today, as it was then, being named Hardin Scholar is the highest academic honor a student can receive at MSU Texas.

During his time at Midwestern, Walbrick was selected to Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Chi scholastic societies, was a Distinguished Military Graduate, and among other honors such as being voted Lord Midwestern, he served as student body president, an experience that left him with many fond memories. Maybe one of his most fond memories is meeting and developing a relationship with a fellow student, Elaine Reichert , the woman who would become his wife.

His favorite professor, Chemistry Department Chair Edgar Bloom, was instrumental in Walbrick’s early career path. “He guided me, supported me, and challenged me,” Walbrick said. “I am very grateful for his influence on my life.”

Walbrick said Bloom also was instrumental in his acceptance at the University of Florida, where he received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry with minors in physical chemistry and mathematics in 1967, and was selected to Phi Beta Kappa honorary society. He worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Florida from 1967 to 1968, then served in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps from 1968 to 1970, attaining the rank of Captain.

While Walbrick was focusing his post-doctoral work on teaching, the opportunity to work in research and development at Merichem opened in 1970. “I felt like God was leading me to do something different. It was a big shift,” he said. “And it was great for me.”

Now in his 50th year at Merichem, Walbrick has served as President and CEO of Merichem Chemicals & Refinery Services and Executive Vice President of Merichem Company. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of Merisol and current member of Merichem’s Board of Directors.

When Merichem asked Walbrick how he wanted to be honored for his contributions to the company, he chose the scholarship at MSU Texas from other options, including sending the scholarship to the University of Florida. “Midwestern is an important place to me. It’s where I grew up and matured. It’s where I developed an ambition to succeed,” he said. “I’m very thankful for my experiences at Midwestern.”

Walbrick and Elaine, now married 57 years, have two children and two grandchildren. Elaine went on to receive her B.F.A. and M.Ed. degrees in music education from the University of Florida in 1965 and 1967. She is retired from work as a private piano instructor and church pianist.

For many years, Walbrick played basketball and tennis, but now focuses on exercise and saltwater fishing. He continues to serve as Finance Chairman and Deacon for South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas, and is now in his 50th year of teaching adult Sunday school classes.

Walbrick’s career at Merichem

Johnny Walbrick led the growth effort to expand Merichem’s laboratory facilities and add pilot plant capabilities with acquisition of the current Files Technical Center. He managed Merichem’s research and development programs for 20 years. During that period, numerous cresylic acid process and product improvements were implemented, and Merichem’s FIBER-FILM® technology was invented, commercialized, and expanded to new applications. His responsibilities increased to include engineering and commercial development before expanding into general management.

Johnny Walbrick
Johnny Walbrick in 2005

Walbrick represented Merichem with numerous professional organizations, including the Industrial Research Institute, the American Chemical Society, the Commercial Development Association, the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Association, and the Environmental Health Committee of the Texas Chemical Council. He was the corporate contact, national Chairman of the Cresol Panel, and representative to the Phenol Panel for the American Chemistry Council. 

About Merichem –

Founded in 1945, Merichem Company, headquartered in Houston, is a global partner serving the oil and gas industries with focused technology, chemical, and service solutions. Merichem provides the oil and gas industry with critical proprietary impurity removal processes to increase the quality of refinery products and gas streams.