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Frank Fulton Aplan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Penn State, Dies



November 6, 2020 - Frank F. Aplan, 97, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Penn State University and formerly of State College passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 at Elmcroft of Berwick.

Born August 11, 1923 in Boulder, CO to Frank F. Aplan, Sr. and Helen Fischer Aplan, he was raised in Fort Pierre, SD during the decade-long depression, drought and plague of grasshoppers of the 1930s. He entered the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, SDSM&T in 1941, but his education was interrupted when he enlisted in the Army in November 1942. He served as an infantryman in a rifle company of the 69th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II where he received the Combat Infantrymen's Badge and Bronze Star Medal. Discharged as a T/Sgt in 1946, he re-entered SDSM&T where he earned a BS degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1948.


Frank F. Aplan

Subsequently, he received a MS from Montana Tech (MT), and later worked several years in industry and as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington (Seattle). He re-entered college as a graduate student and later received his doctorate from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1957. While at MIT, he met and then married Clare M. Donaghue of Dorchester, MA on July 30, 1955. He then returned to industry, last serving as Group Manager of the Mineral Engineering R&D Group for Union Carbide's foreign mining division. In total, he served for 15 years in industry working for five different companies in the mining, metallurgical, and chemical industries.

In 1968, he joined the Pennsylvania State University as Professor and Head of the Department of Mineral Preparation. He served in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at various times as Professor, Section Chair for Metallurgy and for Mineral Processing, and as Distinguished Professor. He retired in 1992 but continued his teaching and research for the next decade. His research specialties were ore and coal processing and environmental pollution control. He was especially proud of the nearly 50 graduate degree students he supervised over the years.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 55 years Clare, a daughter Margaret Anne in childhood; a sister Marie Michel (Ephrata, PA), brother James O. Aplan (Piedmont, SD), and a son-in-law Brian Bower (Berwick, PA). Survivors include his daughter, Susan Bower (Berwick, PA), her children Kyle and Teresa, and Teresa's children Hailey, Emma, Declan, and Ian, a son Peter Aplan, MD (Gaithersburg, MD) and children Kurt, Melissa and Jillian, and the youngest daughter, Lucy Aplan, (State College, PA). Also surviving are a sister, Carla (William) Sahr, (Pierre, SD), brothers-in-law Rev. Rodney Michel (Ephrata PA) and Robert Grandpre, (West Springfield Mass), and sisters-in-law Margaret Donaghue (Quincy, MA) and Peg Aplan (Piedmont, SD).

Frank was very active in his professional societies and belonged to the Society of Mining Engineers (SME) and the Metallurgical Society (TMS) for over 65 years each and the American Chemical Society (ACS) for over 50 years. He was an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) and held their Robert H. Richards and Mineral Industry Education Award. He was a distinguished member of SME and also received their A.M. Gaudin and Arthur Taggart Awards. AIME and the Engineering Foundation named their Aplan award in his honor. He also held the joint AIME/American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Percy Nicholls Award. Frank was Distinguished Alumnus of both SDSM&T and MT and received Montana Tech's Chancellor's Medallion in 2015. In 1998, he was elected to the South Dakota Hall of fame and in 2016 was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame.
Frank's other interest included mining history of the Western U.S, railroads and the U.S. military history. He was an avid fan of jazz, big band and other music from his era and beyond. In place of flowers please make donations to the Centre County Historical Society, 1001 E. College Ave., State College, PA 16801.

Visitation will be from 5 until 7 p.m., on Sunday, November 8, 2020 at Koch Funeral Home, 2401 South Atherton Street, State College. Funeral service will be at 10:30 a.m., on Monday, November 9, 2020 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 820 Westerly Parkway, State College. Burial will be in Centre County Memorial Park. Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at