2003 Distinguished Service Award: James Denkmann

// Mechanical Engineering

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, James Denkmann, ME E-Day

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James L. Denkmann
Denkmann Thermal Storage, Ltd.
BSME ’62

When he was about four years old, James L. Denkmann received a small reciprocating compressor from his father. “It quickly became my favorite toy,” Denkmann says. “I spent many hours taking it apart and putting it back together — only to start all over again.”

By age six, Denkmann had built a complete, working refrigeration unit, with some help. “I must have been quite a pain for my father with all of my questions why this worked and why that didn’t,” he reflects. “But this period of time was formative for the mixture of refrigerants that now courses through my veins.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1962 from Washington University in St. Louis and joined Condaire, Inc., his father’s mechanical-contracting firm, as a project manager. There Denkmann credits many mentors for imparting their incredible knowledge of refrigeration and steam-boiler plants to him. He became the company’s president in 1969.

Following Condaire’s sale in 1970, Denkmann took project-engineering and project-manager positions at a number of Chicago firms, including Lester B. Knight & Associates, Dolio & Metz Associates, and Cosentini Associates. In 1986 he founded Denkmann Thermal Storage, Ltd. in Chicago. President of the company, he also was a partner at Powell Energy Products, Powell, Ohio, from 1992 to 1998.

An expert in direct expansion, gravity recirculation, liquid overfeed systems using air-cooled, water-cooled or evaporative-cooled heat rejection in single multistage compression and cascade configurations, Denkmann holds a patent for a multi-mode high-efficiency air-conditioning system. He has given seminars and lectures in a number of academic and university settings, including the Department of Engineering Professional Development.

As a private in the U.S. Army, he served at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and received an honorable discharge in 1960. Among his affiliations, Denkmann is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

He shares his home with Fritz and Buster, his littermate twin cats. Noted by his friends for his “killer” desserts, Denkmann enjoys cooking and entertaining.