Meshri family funds Baker 200 restoration project

More than 40 percent of Cornell students spend time in Baker Laboratory Room 200 taking chemistry classes. And even more fill the 494-seat lecture hall for courses in other subjects, including American studies, biology, Classics, economics and government.

This fall, when students entered the room, they were greeted by a new, light-filled space and a photo celebrating the couple who made the long-awaited renovations happen, Drs. Dayal and Indurani Meshri.

The Meshri Family Auditorium opened this fall, after a $6 million renovation project that included gutting the space – which was last renovated in the 1970s — and installing new heating, cooling, windows, desks and chairs, as well as technology and electrical improvements.

“Baker 200 has long been a centerpiece of teaching at Cornell,” said Tristan H. Lambert, William T. Miller Professor and department chair in chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. “This renovation has made the auditorium into a spectacular, modern classroom with state-of-the-art technology and improved accessibility that will enhance learning for tens of thousands of students for decades to come.”

A group of 10 people looking at something
Chris Kitchen Guests admire the plaque honoring Meshri and his wife outside the newly renovated auditorium.

Baker Laboratory was built in 1921, one of the first postwar projects on campus and one of the first buildings to utilize reinforced concrete. Two east wings were added in 1967. Clark Hall was built attached to the rear east wings of Baker and connects Baker Laboratory with Rockefeller Hall.

“I worked in Baker Lab and wanted to have a connection to Cornell,” Meshri said. “When I saw the plans and learned the number of students who would take classes in that Baker 200, I realized this was a good cause.”

Meshri did postdoctoral work at Cornell from 1967-69 with Prof. William Miller in fluorine chemistry. Meshri remembers the years of hard work he put in here, but also the sweet way that Miller and his wife Betty treated their students.

“Miller was very methodical, very particular and highly demanding,” he said. “At the same time, he had a lot of love and affection for the students. And his wife Betty was fantastic; they were like our parents.”

Meshri said that Miller expected precise work from his fellows, pushing them to redo experiments and expand on their findings.

“It built character and we learned to see something beyond what we could have imagined,” he said. “We learned that what we thought was the end was not the end. We could do a project in a better way or a more economical way. That helped me when I went to industry. Every process I worked on, I looked at from those critical aspects.”

four men standing and talking
Chris Kitchen From left, chemistry professors and professors emeritus Brian Crane, Roald Hoffmann and Tristan Lambert, talk with Meshri, second from left.

Although he moved to Oklahoma, Meshri kept in touch with Miller and his wife, Betty, during their entire lives, sending Betty Miller flowers every Mother’s Day. “My kids called them grandma and grandpa,” he said.

Meshri said his time at Cornell was instrumental in shaping his future career.

While Meshri came to Cornell thinking he would go into academia, that all changed when Miller went to an American Chemical Society conference in Moscow in 1969. Miller met the director of research for Ozark-Mahoning Co.-Pennwalt Corp., who was about to retire and was looking for his replacement. Miller thought of Meshri, connected the two of them and, after a lot of courting, Meshri and his wife and young daughter headed to Tulsa, Okla.

After 18 years with that company, Meshri started Advance Research Chemicals, Inc. in 1987, which became one of the largest inorganic fluoride specialty chemical producers in the world. In December 2021, Meshri sold his company to Inhance Technologies.

Meshri is an author and co-author of many technical papers, patents, books and encyclopedias of chemical technology. He was inducted into the University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame in 2008 (Meshri received his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 1967 and D.Sc. in 2018) and into the University of Idaho’s College of Science Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2010.

He is also an inductee of the Hall of Fame of Tulsa Historical Society and Museum and is a fellow and board member of the American Institute of Chemists, a trustee for North Gujarat Education Society and a trustee for the University of Idaho Foundation. He is also chairman and founder of the International Society of Indian Chemists & Chemical Engineers.

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two people in auditorium
Chris Kitchen Dayal Meshri, right, and his daughter, Gita, left, in the newly renovated Baker 200 auditorium.