Photo of someone holding a piece of pizza while on a laptop

Annual engineering banquet goes virtual (with nationwide pizza delivery for all)

For almost 30 years, the annual Adler Banquet has been an opportunity for chemical and biomolecular engineering seniors, faculty and staff to celebrate in an informal setting prior to graduation.

Yet, as with nearly everything this semester, the Adler Banquet, held in honor of longtime professor and department chair Robert Adler, had to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo of Ellie Martin
Ellie Martin

Undeterred, Daniel Lacks, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the C. Benson Branch Professor of Chemical Engineering, decided the banquet would go on—virtually, of course—but with a few surprises. He enlisted fourth-year students Ellie Martin and Alex Gordon to help make the mid-April event a success. 

Martin volunteered to arrange for synchronized pizza deliveries to 29 graduating students and seven faculty members scattered across 19 cities in nine states across multiple time zones, allowing everyone to share a meal together across the country. 

She shared that the effort required to make this banquet special despite the challenge of not being gathered together showed how much the department cares about her and her classmates.

“While we are at CWRU to learn, we have truly had the opportunity to connect with faculty,” Martin said. “This [virtual banquet] was not required, but something they felt was important as we are a family trying to get through this time together.” 

In addition to providing the food delivery, Martin thought a special activity would help make this Zoom meetup more memorable than the countless other calls she and her fellow students have had, so she tapped into Gordon’s creative talents.

Photo of Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon

Gordon, a leader in the Case Western Reserve University improv comedy club, IMPROVment, created a riddle game to add some fun to the Zoom meeting. He developed 16 engineering-related riddles and puns and divided participants into teams to solve the puzzles in breakout rooms. Each team had 15 minutes to solve the problems on its list and compete for prizes. 

Not only did he enjoy pulling the game together, but Gordon appreciated the efforts everyone made to celebrate the graduating class, and enjoyed the speeches and awards they shared together while apart.

“This event is one of the highlights of our year, and I’m grateful to Ellie and Alex for all of the time and effort they put into making our virtual event a success,” said Lacks. “In the end, the event was a big success and provided everyone with an opportunity to share a meal together and have some fun.”

In case you’re curious about the riddles, give this one a try:

Question: “What do you get when balsamic vinegar gains an electron?” 

Answer: a balsamic reduction 

The Adler Banquet is supported by the Robert J. Adler Endowed Fund of the Case Alumni Foundation.