Robert Q. Topper

Professor of Chemistry

The Henry C. Enders Fellowship

Written by Robert Q. Topper. Last edited March 12, 2021. 

Henry Cornelius Enders was a Chemistry professor at Cooper Union. He was also an alumnus of the undergraduate Chemistry degree program that was offered at Cooper between 1905 and 1929.

As it happened, the Enders family amassed a sizable estate. Subsequent to her passing in 1976, Ida H. Enders directed in her will that the New York Community Trust use part of her estate to set up a fund in Prof. Enders name, which was to be invested and the proceeds used as a fellowship fund for "deserving graduated students of Chemistry of Cooper Union" to pursue graduate studies in Chemistry. The will further stipulated that the deserving Chemistry graduates were to be recommended to the Trust by the chair of the Chemical Engineering department (as of 1929 the former "Chemistry" department had changed its name to "Chemical Engineering," and consisted of all of the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry faculty). It is notable that Mrs. Enders did not give the funds directly to Cooper Union, but instead directed the Community Trust to disburse the funds according to the direct recommendation of the faculty.

At the time of Mrs. Enders' death Cooper Union no longer offered a degree in Chemistry, having changed the name and emphasis of its Chemistry degree program to Chemical Engineering in1929. Moreover, the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering departments had become separated into two departments in 1972, whereas during Ender's time the chemists and chemical engineers were all in the Chemical Engineering department.  Accordingly, the Community Trust determined that the recipients should be appointed jointly by the two departments of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, with administrative responsibility held by the Chair of Chemical Engineering. The Trust also determined that a Cooper Union student who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering was for the intents of the will to be interpreted as a "chemistry graduate of the Cooper Union." Accordingly, to date all Enders fellows have been chemical engineering graduates.

At first the funding was used to support graduate research at other institutions, since Cooper Union did not have graduate degrees. However, the funding did not benefit students directly as the receiving schools simply used the funds to benefit their own graduate programs. Accordingly, when the master’s degree program in chemical engineering was begun at Cooper Union in 1974, the Trust agreed that the Enders would be used to support Cooper Union students who wished to complete a master’s degree in chemical engineering at Cooper Union.

A complication arose in 1997, when the Administration unilaterally decided to change its description of the Enders Fellowship in the 1997-1999 catalog as follows: "One source of funding available to students wishing to pursue graduate study in engineering is the Enders Fund...This fund is restricted to Cooper Union seniors who wish to continue their education in a graduate program at the Cooper Union." The Administration confirmed in a number of subsequent meetings with the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering chairs that their position was that all Cooper Union students were in principle eligible for the fund. However, the Community Trust disagreed. Consequently, this erroneous language was eventually removed from the catalog. However, a compromise was subsequently reached whereby any undergraduate Cooper Union student who completes all of the undergraduate chemistry coursework required for the chemical engineering degree could be considered to be eligible for an Enders fellowship. This is the current state of affairs.