Remembering Steven Szczepanski, CST ’79, ’87

Steve Szczepanski, president of the CST Alumni Board, recently passed away following a prolonged illness.

After earning his Temple University undergraduate and doctoral degrees in chemistry, he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an NIH post-doctoral fellow. Steve had more than 30 years of experience as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, with a focus on product development, quality control and manufacturing. Most recently, he was a consultant on FDA application issues for Ironshore Pharmaceuticals.

Committed to mentoring in his professional life and as a Temple alumnus, Steve also led the college’s Owl to Owl Mentor Program, which connects students to successful graduates.

Even as his health declined, Steve remained committed to CST and to the many relationships he built at the college. He attended the college’s Student Scholarships, Awards and Recognition Luncheon this past spring and even helped lead the effort to gather food items for Temple's Cherry Pantry.

In December 2018, Steve spoke at the college’s winter graduation ceremony. He urged graduates to stay connected to Temple and to build on those lasting relationships.

Steve was a great friend to many staff, faculty and students at the college. He will be missed.

Below are Steve’s remarks to the Winter Class of 2018:

Good morning, CST Class of 2018! Welcome parents, faculty, staff, students and friends of Temple University. My name is Steve Szczepanski, and I am the current President of the College of Science and Technology Alumni Board.  

Hard for me to believe, I was in this audience 38 years ago when I graduated from Temple with a BA in Chemistry. I returned six years later, not because Temple changed their mind and made me take my degree over again. I enrolled in graduate school at Temple and received my PhD in 0ganic chemistry.

Somewhere in this time period, I became aware of Temple history, Russel Conwell and his “Acres of Diamonds” speech, an address he gave over 6,000 times!  We won’t make this 6001.

Reverend Conwell recounted a tale told to him by a guide while he travelled in the Middle East in 1870s. It was the story of a man in search of treasure, who sold his farm and everything he owned, travelling the Middle East and Europe in search of diamonds. He spent all his money, found nothing and died penny-less.

Not surprising, the new owner of the farm went to survey his property and uncovered “Acres of Diamonds” when walking along a riverbank. The point being that you don’t necessarily need to look far for treasure; there is treasure in your own backyard!

Narcissistically, I thought that I was one of the diamonds in the local Temple acres. Philly born and raised, I spread my educational dollars liberally throughout the university system in the Northeast, finally transferring to Temple as a junior chemistry major, where I flourished both professionally and personally.

In retrospect, I did not realize how privileged I was to have such great opportunities and options available to me. I was no diamond, or even a quality piece of cubic zirconia. In reality, I was only a piece of coal or, more chemically correct, carbon. I believe the real diamonds in the “acres of diamonds” are Temple graduates.  They are seeded everywhere!  Temple graduates prove their value by helping one another!

A Temple classmate helped me connect for my post-doctoral Fellowship at MIT after I graduated from Temple. A Temple classmate helped me connect for my first job the chemical industry. During the intervening years, I would meet with Temple classmates and fellow graduates at professional meeting and occasional trips back to Philadelphia. This has proven to be a very powerful network!

Finally, after far too many years, I was able to return the favors, to finally be a resource to Temple graduates. I was able to hire Temple chemistry and biology graduates to work in my chemistry laboratory in King of Prussia several years ago. (I don’t work there anymore, so sorry, don’t pass me your resumes….).

Through a Temple classmate, I became involved Temple Owl to Owl program, mentoring CST undergrad students over the past 6 years. I encourage my newly minted Temple peers to consider participating in Owl to Owl mentoring program.

Today, you have joined the growing ranks of Temple graduates!  You will either join the working community or continue your professional education.  You are on your way to becoming a diamond.

Stay connected to Temple!! Congratulations, graduates, and best of luck!