Dennis Weatherby (1959-2007)

Overhead shot of Weatherby smiling while students with open textbooks sit at a desk in the background
Dennis Weatherby as Assistant Dean of Engineering and Director of the Auburn University Minority Engineering Recruiting Program, March 25, 2002
Photograph by Todd Van Ernst, courtesy The Montgomery Advertiser

Dennis W. Weatherby was an administrator and scientist, responsible for leading the team that developed the chemical formula for what is now known as Cascade Dishwashing Detergent. Weatherby was born in Brighton, Alabama on December 4, 1959, to Willie and Flossie Mae Weatherby. He became intrigued with science as a child while studying identically-shaped Pringles potato chips. Weatherby attended Midfield High School in Birmingham, where he earned a football scholarship to Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce, Ohio. He graduated with a BA in chemistry in 1982, and then attended the University of Dayton, Ohio, graduating with an MA in chemical engineering in 1984. He later earned his PhD in Educational Psychology from Auburn University in Alabama.

Shortly after graduation in 1982, Weatherby took a job with the Procter & Gamble company, located in Cincinnati. He was hired as a process engineer, and within his first few years, he was asked to lead a team to create a new version of dishwashing detergent, a consumer product that P&G had marketed since 1955. The existing product contained a pigment that stained both dishes and dishwashers. Weatherby and his team were asked to create a new cleaning detergent that eliminated those problems.

At the age of 27, Weatherby made a major breakthrough, and along with co-developer Brian J. Roselle, he and his team developed a solution that did not stain dishes. On December 22, 1987, Weatherby received U.S. Patent No. 4,714,562 for “automatic dishwasher detergent composition.” That solution still serves as the basic formula behind all lemon-scented cleaning products that contain bleach. P&G continued to call the product Cascade Dishwashing Detergent, and it would become the company’s most popular detergent brand sold since then.

Dennis Weatherby with Cascade products
Dennis Weatherby with Cascade products, March 25, 2002 Photograph by Alvin Benn, courtesy The Montgomery Advertiser

Weatherby left P&G, and worked briefly for The Whittaker Corporation, before joining the faculty at his alma mater, Central State University in 1989. By 1994, he became the assistant professor of water quality for the CSU International Center for Water Resources Management. During his tenure, Weatherby served as an advisor, recruiter, and counselor for students in the environmental program, and was responsible for more than 400% growth in student enrollment at the university.

In 1996, Weatherby left CSU to join the faculty of Auburn University, to establish and lead the school’s new minority engineering program. He moved to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 2004, serving as the associate dean of the graduate school. Weatherby left Notre Dame in 2006, when he accepted the position of Associate Provost for student success at Northern Kentucky University.

Weatherby suffered from high blood pressure throughout his life, and fell ill in August 2007. While recovering at home, he hit his foot on a bedpost, and developed a blood clot that traveled to his brain. He died on September 15, 2007 at the age of 47 in Alexandria, Kentucky. He is survived by his wife, Marpessa, daughters, Audrey, Rachel, Elaine, Antoneah, and sons, Ryan and Stephen. In his honor, to commemorate 25 years of the Engineering Academic Excellence Program, The Weatherby Society at Auburn University was established to recognize those who have made donations and gifts in excess of $25,000.