Though an otherwise excellent student, Blough discovered that his LaGrange County rural school had not given him a good foundation in English. He was disheartened by his lack of skill in the subject and suffered much at the hands of Henry Thew Stephenson, his demanding teacher of English literature. As he recalled years later to an interviewer, Blough suffered from bouts of homesickness and considered returning to his farm home in the middle of his senior year. The despondent lad stopped attending class and remained in his room. Unexpectedly he was visited at his boarding house by the president of the university, Joseph Swain, who invited Blough to his office for a fatherly talk. The interest of the president was enough to assuage his longing for home, and Blough decided to stay and graduate. He passed Stephenson's course and, in the end, developed an enduring affection for English literature.
After graduating in 1899, Blough taught chemistry and physics in high schools for three years. During the next four years, he studied engineering and metallurgy at Cornell University, winning a Carnegie Fellowship in the years 1903Ð1905. He then took a job as metallurgist with the company that later became the Aluminum Company of America.
From 1919 to 1928 Blough served as technical director of manufacturing for the Aluminum Company of America. Distinguished Professor of History Thomas Clark, in a 1973 Alumni Magazine article, said of Blough's achievements in this period, "His contributions to the household utensil, automobile, and airplane industries alone are almost incalculable."
In 1928 Blough became vice president and director of Aluminum Limited in Montreal, which later became Alcan Aluminum.
On the occasion of the dedication of the IU Chemistry Building in 1931, the university conferred on Blough, along with five other early graduates of the chemistry department, the degree of honorary Doctor of Science.
Earl Blough died in New York in 1971, leaving a bequest of $100,000 to Indiana University. His daughter, Frani Bough Muser of New York City, in conference with university officials, determined that the most suitable memorial would be the establishment of a named professorship. The university was delighted with the gift. "The income from the Blough endowment," IU President John W. Ryan said in announcing the gift at that time, "when used as a salary supplement . . . will enhance our ability to retain or attract an especially able scholar in chemistry." The first Earl Blough Professor was Dr. Jay Kochi. An organometallic chemist, he was named to the professorship in 1973 and distinguished himself in the fields of photochemistry and the spectroscopy of organic and organometallic free radicals. In 1985 Dr. Paul A. Grieco was named the second holder of the Earl Blough Professorship, a position he still holds today.
About the position, Grieco says "The Earl Blough honors everything I hold dear. It began as a tangible acknowledgement of Earl Blough's appreciation of the outstanding training he enjoyed as an undergraduate at Indiana Univesity. Today, superb teaching and research continue to place the Department of Chemistry at Indiana University in the forefront of education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. As chair and a member of the chemistry faculty, I appreciate that tradition. The Earl Blough Professorship also honors family. The legacy Frani Blough Muser has given to the department is one of a child's love, honor, and respect for a parent. Family is important to me too, and this aspect of theEarl Blough Professorship makes it very special."