Pete Balsells. Source: Balsells Fellowship

So sad to learn that Pete Balsells passed away on August 10, 2022. Pete was the founder of the Balsells Fellowship program which, together with the Catalan Government, funds MSc, PhD, and post-docs for Catalan students in several universities in the United States.

Thanks to the Balsells fellowship, I was able to pursue my MSc at the University of California, Irvine. Where I worked with professor Jack Brouwer in the study of high-temperature fuel cells. That opportunity really sparked my passion for research and convinced me to pursue a career in science.

Beyond being a philanthropist, Pete was an example of hard work and determination. Thanks to his support and inspiring passion, I am still working on the research that I started in California.

Pete was born in Barcelona in 1928. When he lost his father, at the age of 13, he had to start working to provide for the family. When he was 18, Pete moved to the United States and enrolled in Mechanical Engineering at the Univesity of Colorado Boulder. He graduated in 1952 and had different jobs while he developed a special seal for fire extinguishers. He got gradually into the seal industry until he founded BalSeal in 1958. The company grew until becoming a world leader in its sector.

In 1994, Pete founded the Balsells Fellowship program, originally based at the University of California, Irvine. The program grew over the years and is nowadays present in other universities in the US. The programme included fellowships for Catalan students accepted at UCI . One of the novelties of the program in 2012 was the Mobility Program, which consists of a travel allowance for students to conduct their BSc and MSc thesis at UCI.

Thanks to the Mobility Program, I attended UCI for the first time to finish my engineering degree from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Among the fellows, we called that the “mini Balsells” fellowship. Upon graduation, I enrolled in the MSc in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program at UCI, which was funded by a fully-fledged Balsells fellowship. There I worked on hydrogen technologies with professor Jack Brouwer.

Beyond his involvement in the foundation, Pete used to share his views, vision, and enterprising character with the fellows. He did so in a very friendly manner whenever we meet at the events organized by the Casal dels Catalans de Califòrnia, the receptions he used to hold at his house in Newport Beach, or the time he invited us to BalSeal. I remember him as a friendly man, and I have fond memories of several discussions with him during those events.

My time in California was very intense and full of good memories, but most remarkably it was there that I discovered my passion for research. The Balsells fellowship made that possible, so it is fair to say that Pete was instrumental in my scientific career, for which I will always be grateful.

Pete Balsells (center) hosting Balsells fellows visit BalSeal in 2012. I am the third from the left. Source: Balsells Fellowship