On October 2, 2015, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering named the Metallographic Laboratory in honor of Arlan O. Benscoter, the lead instructor for Mat. 10 – the introductory lab class for materials.
Arlan began his career in Bethlehem Steel as a technician, and eventually became a research scientist in our department. He has no formal training in the subject, yet his hands-on experience, ingenuity, and inquisitiveness led him to become one of the world’s most distinguished metallographers, in addition to one of Lehigh’s most beloved instructors. He has authored numerous publications and the recipient of 16 awards in the field.
Arlan joined us in 1987 and his career at Lehigh spanned over 21 years. He oversaw Lehigh’s optical microscopy labs and student microscopy projects, and took on the responsibility of building up the lab’s equipment along with its reputation. He started out with a couple of low-budget optical microscopes, and the lab had 21 by the time he was done.
Arlan supervised over 100 work-study students, working with anywhere between 12 and 16 students at a time. Some of his fondest memories are of watching the students’ progress, assisting them with their projects, and “tormenting” them (in a good-natured way). He stays in touch with many to this day.
Under Arlan’s guidance, Lehigh’s students have won the prestigious Jacquet-Lucas Award – one of the world’s top prizes for materials science – five times. Before 1999, no student had ever won this award in the 55 years of its existence.
Arlan enjoyed the opportunity to work with a wide variety of materials and projects at Lehigh. Over the years, he embraced the progress in the metallurgical field. He was there when things changed from photographic film to digital captures, and saw the many advances in polishing – the most important step in preparing a specimen for microstructural analysis.
Nowadays, Arlan enjoys spending time with his family. He has three daughters, five granddaughters, one grandson, and one great-granddaughter, all of whom live within walking distance. He also enjoys deer and turkey hunting with bow and flintlock, time in the woods, and nature in general.
Choose a job you love, in the words of Confucius, and you will never work a day in your life. “I loved my time here,” Arlan says. “It was more like a hobby than a job. It was challenging – no two days in a row were ever the same.”