Long before he had Donald Trump for a boss, Kelvin Droegemeier reported to Robert Wilhelmson, esteemed professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois.
And, truth be told, he might not have made it as far as he did — running the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2019-21 — if not for the quality time he spent studying under his master’s and Ph.D. advisor.
“Dr. Wilhelmson was an extraordinary mentor who afforded me opportunities to work on writing grant proposals, and other important activities such as the concept and proposal that led to the creation of NCSA,” Droegemeier says.
“He also has very strong morals and taught me how to utilize them in research.”
When Droegemeier needed a break from his studies in the late '70s and early '80s, the two-degree grad could usually be found at one of three places.
“Without hesitation, Papa Del’s was my favorite eatery,” he says. “Treno’s also was a favorite hangout for graduate students — cold Old Style beer, great brownies and free popcorn, all consumed together — and Panama Reds, featuring Pork and the Havana Ducks, was a favorite until it closed a year or two after I arrived on campus.”
In June 2023, it was announced that Droegemeier woukd return to his alma mater in the fall, joining the faculty of the UI’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences and serving as a special advisor to the chancellor on science and policy.
Atmospheric Sciences head Jeff Trapp said Droegemeier’s research into severe weather — particularly the dynamics and predictability of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes — would be a good fit at Illinois.
“We have a long tradition of research on hazardous weather, but we’re also passionate about understanding the impacts of such weather and climate on society and how we can use our knowledge to support resiliency and lead to a safer and more prosperous state and nation,” Trapp said.
“Dr. Droegemeier’s experience and his success in leadership of centers and institutes of excellence aligns with that focus and has the potential to take our research enterprise to the next level.”
In his other role, Droegemeier will advise the chancellor and UI leaders on federal initiatives, policies and strategic opportunities “in the broad areas of sustaining climate, predicting climate shifts and ensuring resiliency of our ecosystems,” the UI announced.