Texas Business Hall of Fame to honor Texas State graduate student

July 14, 2022

Samuel Kimmel smiling outside McCoy Hall at Texas State University under blue sky and trees
Samuel W. Kimmel is simultaneously seeking an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. at Texas State University.

“He can’t even spell his name”

Kimmel overcomes dyslexia and dysgraphia to earn Future Texas Business Legend Award

By Twister Marquiss

Manager, Marketing and Communications,
McCoy College of Business

“College isn’t for you.”

Samuel W. Kimmel heard variations of those words repeatedly during his formative years, from second grade through high school. A childhood diagnosis of dysgraphia — an inability to write coherently — and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later led to placement in high school programs designed for students regarded as not likely to succeed in college.

He reflects on those experiences, recalling the saying, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

Kimmel, who is also dyslexic, said that being told he was not college material had a profound impact on his self-esteem. After high school, he worked in an entry-level position at a veterinary clinic for several years. 

“The veterinarians used a process of making informed scientific conclusions based on the available data,” Kimmel said. “It was so exciting and inspiring that soon I became hooked and decided to enroll in classes at Austin Community College — not to remind myself of the basics, but to learn how to become a collegiate student in a way that works for me and my unique learning disabilities.”

What followed was a dramatic change in his life path.

Kimmel earned associate’s degrees in both chemistry and general studies from ACC in 2017. A year later, at Texas State University, he completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, followed by a master of science degree in chemistry in 2020. Now, through Texas State’s dual-degree program, he is simultaneously seeking a Ph.D. in Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC) in the College of Science and Engineering and an M.B.A. from the McCoy College of Business. He is on pace to finish his M.B.A. in 2023 and his Ph.D. in 2024.

That’s a long way from “College isn’t for you.”

“When you understand how you learn, it’s amazing what you can do,” he said. “I didn’t have that support early on. You need to be disciplined with however your brain works.”

His doctoral research has been focused on developing safe, cost-effective, rechargeable batteries as alternatives to more costly and fire-prone lithium-ion batteries — a project in collaboration with the U.S. Navy. This research has included a multi-year summer internship with the Naval Research Laboratory.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “I am the only one working on these types of cathodes for nickel-zinc batteries for the U.S. Navy. My work fits under their portfolio very nicely.”

At six-foot-four, Kimmel has seen the world from a slightly higher perspective than most of us. He often seems to be looking beyond, or looking for what might be next.

“Sam has always been willing and interested in trying new things. He is adventurous,” said Dr. Chris Rhodes, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Texas State. Dr. Rhodes has been among Kimmel’s key mentors the MSEC program. 

Dr. Rhodes said that Kimmel researched the synthesis, structure, and electrochemical properties of substituted nickel hydroxide cathodes for aqueous nickel-zinc batteries. This research has important applications for developing safe, high energy density batteries that are of significant interest for Department of Defense applications. Kimmel’s research resulted in a co-authored, peer-reviewed manuscript entitled “Capacity and Phase Stability of Metal-Substituted a-Ni(OH)₂ Nanosheets in Aqueous Ni–Zn Batteries,” which was published in Materials Advances in 2021. 

“This work significantly advanced understanding of how metal substituents can increase the capacity and stability of cathodes for Ni-Zn batteries,” Dr. Rhodes said. 

Kimmel has given multiple presentations — both oral and poster — including presentations at international meetings of the Electrochemical Society and Material Research Society. For his research, he has received multiple awards.

“Sam has demonstrated both initiative and leadership,” Dr. Rhodes said. “He has not only excelled himself, but he has influenced others around him to excel. He has mentored and trained other students. One of the undergraduate students Sam worked with went on to get a job in a battery company, and another undergraduate student went on to pursue a graduate degree. Neither of these would have happened without Sam’s guidance and influence.”

Others have taken notice, as well.

The Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation awards scholar and veteran entrepreneurs from across the state who have demonstrated an early inclination towards business leadership and innovation. This year, after undergoing a rigorous interview process, 44 scholar and veterans were selected to receive a $15,000 cash prize and a permanent invitation to join the TBHF network. Each year, TBHF hosts a luncheon to honor and recognize these entrepreneurs for their accomplishments.

The event is by invitation only.

Kimmel applied. He interviewed. He received an invitation.

He has been named a recipient of the Future Texas Business Legend Award.

“I still struggle with accepting that’s me — that’s Sam Kimmel. Part of me still really struggles with imposter syndrome,” he said.

But he also recalls how long this journey has been, and he sees the bigger picture.

“One of my biggest motivators to get a Ph.D. was because I was told I couldn’t,” he said. “I can show people: If I can do it, you can overcome anything you want to overcome and achieve your goal. I’ve been very lucky with everything that has happened for me. I hope other people see that. They can say, ‘You know that guy, he can’t even spell his name, but look at what he can achieve.’” ✯

For more information, email Twister Marquiss, manager of marketing and communications for the McCoy College of Business, at twister@txstate.edu.

About the McCoy College of Business
Established in 1970, Texas State’s business school officially became the McCoy College of Business in 2004 following a donation of $20 million by Emmett and Miriam McCoy. The college, which offers classes in both San Marcos and Round Rock, is accredited by AACSB in both business and accounting, and has graduated nearly 42,000 alumni.

Marketing and Communications

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Texas State University
601 University Drive
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