SDSU Chemistry: Personnel Through the Ages
This list will never really be complete. I've gone through the general catalogs of the University, and faculty at all levels were represented through the 1950s, but by 1958 the Assistant Instructors Lecturers were so numerous and transient that I stopped listing them here, and so did the general Catalogs a few years later. Several part-time faculty since 1958 who stayed for a while and made major contributions to the department are listed.
SDSU Chemistry: Faculty Through the Ages
Missing from this list are instructors in chemistry before there was a distinct Chemistry Department, as well as many lecturers and adjuncts who have given their time and effort to the instruction of our students. I have included some of our current and long-lived lecturers who have been active in the governance and research of the department. Dates are periods of service to the Chemistry Department. "SDSC" is San Diego State College, one of the former names of SDSU.
Mitchel (Ted) T.
served 1964-1992; Ph.D. UCLA. Biochemist studying pathways of biological oxidations. Funded by the NIH for many years. Abbott, Jensen, Malik, Mathewson, and Stewart all left during an administrative meltdown brought on by the budget crisis of 1992.
Ross A. Baker
served 1952-1957, Ph.D. U. Wisconsin. "A grand old retired professor, Ross Baker. He taught freshman laboratories and scientific glass blowing. The latter was not only a fun thing, it was a real service to the department as he could construct special apparatus. Glass blowing was also his hobby and he had a small shop at his Mt Helix home. I still have a 1" high pitcher with cobalt blue handle, a hero's engine, and a couple of other items which he gave us." -- V. Landis. In 1945 Baker retired as Chairman of the New York Section of the A.C.S., largest of the 106 local sections. He was Professor of Chemistry at C.C.N.Y. His father taught chemistry at De Pauw University.
served 2006-2012, B.S. '94 U. Houston (C. W. Paul Chu), Ph.D. '02 U.C. Berkeley (Jeffrey R. Long), postdoc MIT (Stephen J. Lippard). Inorganic, Bioinorganic, and Materials Chemistry. Laurance became our stalwart Chem 200 instructor before leaving to take a position at Point Loma Nazarene University.
served 1970-2000, B.S. '62 SDSU, Ph.D. '65 Stanford (Nobel Laureate Henry Taube), postdoc Columbia U. (Harry Gray, now at CalTech). Inorganic chemist studying transition metal ion redox reaction kinetics. Larry first joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Florida, where he received NSF support and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. After his stay at the University of Florida, he joined SDSU, where he became a major contributor to the department's lower division courses. He designed Chem 105 in response to a clear need to bring students up to speed before entering the General Chemistry course. Retired in 2000 when the movers refused to relocate the 5-ft. high stacks of paper in his office to the new CSL building (could be true). A true teacher-scholar, a great mentor to struggling students, and an inspiration to his colleagues.
served 2007-2014, B.S. USC, Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley, postdoc MIT. Inorganic chemistry.
served 1999-, M.S. and Ph.D. 1992 Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden; Postdoc 1994 Notre Dame (Helquist); Visiting scholar UCSD and Scripps Research institute (KC Nicolaou) 1999. Synthetic organic chemistry. Mike's specialization has been the total synthesis of biologically active compounds.
served 1997-2004, B.S. Colorado School of Mines, M.S., Ph.D. Vanderbilt (Tim Hanusa), postdoc U. British Columbia (Peter Legzdins). Organometallic synthesis. One of our leading supervisors of undergraduate research and a dedicated lecturer, Dave single-handedly redesigned much of the Chem 200 lecture and lab syllabus. Left the department in 2004 and is now on the faculty of U. Arkansas, Fort Smith
served 2003-; B.S. UC Santa Barbara, Ph.D. U. Texas. Bioinorganic chemistry and x-ray crystallography. A prominent bioinorganic chemist and x-ray crystyallographer, Carl joined the department as Chair with the hope of directing the expansion of the faculty to its former numbers, but instead had to steer us through the worst state budget in a dozen years. Carl has served as an NSF program officer and was elected a AAAS fellow in 2011.
served 1978-; A.B., M.S. Oakland U. Michigan, Ph.D. UNC (Maurice Bursey). Mass spectroscopist, and department Chair from 1998-2003.
(1926-2021) served 1973-2002; A.B. Northern Arizona U., M.S. USC, Ph.D. '52 U. Tennessee and Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (G. Frederick Smith). Physical chemist. Jim was invited to become SDSU's Graduate Dean by President Brage Golding after being at Purdue U. as a Professor of Chemistry. Jim served as Dean of the Graduate Division and Vice President of Research until his retirement. His obituary.
Coffey, Jr. (Apr 12, 1935 - Jun 6, 2001)
served 1968-1999; B.S. chemistry Abilene Christian College, B.S. chemical engineering U. Texas, Ph.D. '67 U. Texas (J. Boggs). Research in microwave spectroscopy and molecular structure. DeWitt collaborated with Leo Radom and Brian J. Smith on interpretation of vinyl-X rotational spectra. He served at various times as graduate and undergraduate advisor in the department and was a longstanding instructor in the General Chemistry course. He loved singing and biking, celebrating his 60th birthday with a 60-mile bike tour. Retired in 1999, and passed away in 2001.
served 1986-; B.S. '79 Purdue, Ph.D. '84 U. Texas, postdoc Purdue. Research in organic and organoborane chemistry.
served 1999-, B.A. '84 Harvard (Klemperer), Ph.D. '90 U.C. Berkeley (Saykally), postdoc Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Thaddeus/Klemperer). Physical chemist with research in spectroscopy and computational studies of organic free radicals. Joined the faculty from U. Mississippi. Is honored to share the distinction with Jim Mathewson of being one of the department's veterans of the odd sport of crew, serving as coxswain on the undefeated Harvard 3rd freshman men's lightweight crew team of 1985.
served 1972-200?. B.S. College of St. Thomas, Ph.D. Michigan State U. A biochemist, Steve served as long-time Executive Director of CSUPERB and CBBD.
Robert C. Drescher
served 1948-1948; A.B. '48 SDSC. Assistant in Chemistry.
Douglas B. Grotjahn
served 1997-; B.A. Reed College, Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley (Peter Volhardt). Organic and bioinorganic chemistry. Joined the department from U. Arizona, currently directs our graduate admissions.
served 1961-1997, physical organic chemist; B.S. Occidental College, Ph.D. MIT (Herbert House), postdoc U. Illinois (David Curtin). His research was directed towards substituent field effects and nitrones. His postdoc with David Curtin at Illinois narrowly missed Bill Richardson's appearance in the group as a Ph.D. student. Grubbs' research at SDSU was supported by the NSF, NIH, PRF, and IBM.
(1913-2009) ????-????. Polymer chemistry. Dr. Hardy came to SDSU as an adjunct professor after a long and successful career in industrial polymer chemistry. He studied in Switzerland and at the University of Minnesota, and taught at Cal Poly Pomona, UCSD, and SDSU. He was also an author and painter in watercolors. Steve Roeder remembers that one time when Dr. Hardy taught classes for us as an adjunct, Dr. Hardy donated his pay back to the department. Ken Long adds, "While I did not know this, it is completely consistent with everything I knew of Dr. Hardy's character." He passed away in 2009 at the age of 96.
served 1948-????; B.S. '39 Monmouth College, additional study at DePaul and Northwestern. Harrington had a Ph.D. in Chemical Education, in case anyone thinks that's a new idea, and he taught and coordinated Chem 2A which later became Chem 100. "His wife, also a veteran, taught business at SDJC (now SDCC). Because the JC's give credit for ANY graduate work, she was paid more than Neil." - V. Landis. From the 1963 Faculty Register: "Takes a personal interest in his students; is willing to help them." Harrington's description in the Robinson History.
Arthur H. Hayes
served 1954-1957; A.B. SDSC. Lecturer in Chemistry.
served 1956-1992 and beyond; B.S. '51 Northwestern (Robert Burwell), Ph.D. '58 UCLA (Thomas L. Jacobs); organic chemist. Eat your heart out, Barry Sharpless: Lars is still easily the most widely recognized organic chemist in the greater San Diego area. Just try asking random people at the next Padres' game. A one-time northwest Chicago rough kid (once having to write "I will not throw snowballs" 103 times after attacking a school bus with his gang), Lars got his Ph.D. at UCLA, where he was Bill Richardson's TA in organic chemistry. Lars officially retired in 1992, but kept a desk in the department and occasionally emailed us to ask after a book that someone had borrowed from his collection. He was also a founding member of the chemistry faculty at the graduate campus of the Tijuana Technological Institute, from which he retired in 2007. Lars gave generously in many ways, embodying a love of community and love of learning that serves still as a model for generations of his students and colleagues. From the 1963 Faculty Register: "He conducts an interesting and hard class. Outstanding lectures are matched by his difficult and detailed quizzes and tests. Conscientious reading of the text is a must."
William E. Hutton
served 1947-1948; A.B. '38 U.C. Berkeley. Lecturer in Chemistry.
served 1922-1923; B.S. '18 U.C. Berkeley. The first chemistry professor to last a year at what would become SDSU. (One professor preceded Iddings but left ignominiously.) Iddings himself left after only a year, according to the September 17 1923 Paper Lantern (predecessor to the Daily Aztec) in order to puruse graduate work at Berkeley. Iddings' description in the Robinson History.
Robert Isensee (Nov 2 1919-Jun 17 2012)
served 1948-1982; A.B. '41 Reed College, M.A. '43 and Ph.D. '48 Oregon State U. Organic chemist. Served as Chair (1958-1961) Graduate Coordinator in early sixties. As Chair in the late fifties coordinated the planning of the 1960 Chemistry/Geology Building. He and Hal Walba, in collaboration, received in 1954 San Diego State's first NSF supported research grant. During Chairmanships of Walba and Wadsworth served as Assistant Chair. Isensee's description in the Robinson History.
Carl E. James
served 1948-1949, 1954-1955; A.B. '33 SDSC. Lecturer in Chemistry. James is listed in the 1954-55 catalog as a District Chemist for the 11th naval District. James' description in the Robinson History.
Reilly C. Jensen
served 1958-1992; B.S. and M.S. U. Nevada, Ph.D. '57 U. Washington (A.W. Fairhall). Research in radiochemistry and fission research.
served 1962-1991; B.S. U. Washington, Ph.D. '58 Oregon State U. (J.C. Decius). Physical chemist. Jones set up an outstanding integrated senior physical-analytical lab program, featuring instruction in molecular structure research, interpretation of IR spectra, etc, and served as Chairman of the Chemistry Department for three years.
served 1947-1972; B.S. '33 St. Louis U., M.S. '34, Ph.D. i'37 Washington U. An organic chemist and licensed pharmacist, Joseph was one of the first active researchers in the department, working on biochemical projects funded by the Heart Association. Born in Scotland, Joseph returned to the UK upon his retirement, to a suburb of London. "A delightful British accent and philosophy helped us tide many crises. He pronounced 'part' as 'pot' which made some lectures a bit funny." - V. Landis. Department chair from 1952-1955. Joseph's description in the Robinson History.
served 2006-2013, analytical/materials, M.S. Novosibirsk State (Vladimir Semikolenov), Ph.D. Weizmann Inst. (Israel Rubinstein), postdocs UT Austin (Allen J. Bard) and UNC (Royce W. Murray). Greg's work focused on the optical and electronic properties of semiconductor nanoparticles, and their possible applications to sensor technology.
Aileen F. Knowles
served 1997-2008, membrane protein biochemist, Ph.D. U.C. Riverside (Anthony Norman), postdoc Cornell (Efraim Racker) and New York Public Health Research Institute (Harvey Penefsky); also appointment to UCSD. Aileen joined SDSU as an adjunct professor and lecturer after leaving the faculty at Northeastern U., and directed several graduate thesis projects in in membrane proteins/molecular biology here.
(1911-2022) served 1997-2022; A.B. '43 Hanover College, Ph.D. '46 U. Illinois (Harold Snyder, Charles Price, studying anti-malarial), postdoc MIT (Arthur Cope). Pete Kovacic was valedictorian of his class at Hanover College, and went from there to study anti-malarial treatments at Illinois, contributing to the then emerging field of medicinal chemistry. While at Illinois, he roomed across the hall from David Curtin, who would later be Bill Richardson's PhD advisor. Pete was an instructor at Columbia for a year (during a supposed postdoc with Robert Elderfield), and then worked for 7 years at DuPont (working on neoprene vulcanization and halocarbons). Pete then accepted a faculty position at Case Institute of Technology (later Case-Western) in 1955, where his was among the first research groups to propose oxidative stress as a primary mechanicsm of tissue damage. He moved to U. Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1968, returning to the issue of oxidative stress and anti-oxidant activity in the 1980's. After retiring in 1987, he traveled extensively before settling in San Diego and joining SDSU as an adjunct professor. He continued his work by reviewing the literature and keeping an eye out for applications of his unifying theory of oxidant and anti-oxidant activity in medicine, ultimately authoring over 300 publications. Pete passed away peacefully at the age of 100 1/2. Dot, his beloved wife of 72 years, predeceased him in 2018.
served 1954-2000; B.S. Washington State College, Ph.D. '57 U. Minnesota (Robert Bradsted). Joined the Department at age 24, coming from U. Minnesota with a major in inorganic and a minor in analytical chemistry. "Hired as inorganic chemist. There were 230 faculty and 23 administrators in the catalog. I think there were 5,700 students. The faculty doubled in three years. I worked in freshman chem, analytical chem and advanced inorganic until I developed the graduate Inorganic Chemistry courses when we got the MS degree. Then Ring and Bennett were hired and took over Grad Inorganic so I coordinated freshman chem for about 17 years. Then I went full time analytical and undergrad advisor." - V. Landis. Retired after 45 years working in the Department, most recently as an outstanding undergraduate advisor. Now a Lakeside resident and frequent pit crew member for Mexican motocrosses.
served 1982-1993; B.S. '67 Regis College, M.S. '71 UCLA (R.L. Pecsok), Ph.D. U. Hawaii '74 (R.L. Pecsok). Famously announced his retirement (to start a consultancy firm) by postcard from Tahiti.
Herbert G. Lebherz
served 1976-1996, biochemist specializing in enzymology, supported by NIH for several years. A "brilliant, enthusiastic biochemist/molecular biologist" - V. Landis.
Frank R. Larkworthy
served 1956-1957; B.A. Colorado State U. Assistant in Chemistry.
served 1966-1968, physical chemist with a specialty in photochemistry. He was German-born and came to SDSU after a post-doctorate with Prof. Livingston at the University of Minnesota. He committed suicide in the fall of 1968.
Urban J. Lewis
served 1948-1949; A.B. '48 SDSC. Assistant in Chemistry.
served 2001-2007; A.B. Occidental College, M.S. Johns Hopkins (Environmental Engineering), Ph.D. UIUC (Pat Shapley), postdoc Johns Hopkins (Ken Karlin). Environmental and synthetic inorganic chemist.
served 1966-1969, physical chemist. Effectively traded to us by U. Minnesota for his former student, William Ware. "Livingston was an inspiration in the measurement of rates and rate laws for several generations of chemists at U. of Minnesota. His chapters in Weissberger's Methods of Organic Chemistry guided hundreds of graduate students in their research. We were fortunate that he went into active retirement here for three years." - V. Landis. Livingston's description in the Robinson History.
served 2001-; B.S. '91 SUNY Stony Brook, Ph.D. '99 UCSD (E. Komives), postdoc CalTech (Steve Mayo). Protein design biochemistry.
(Oct 5 1928-Apr 17 2014) served 1957-1992; A.B. '50 Wabash College, Ph.D. '54 Michigan State U. (Max Rogers). Physical-inorganic chemistry. Jim Malik taught at U. Minnesota at Duluth and Know College in Illinois before coming to then San Diego State College in 1957. He spent one year at Sonoma State College to establish its chemistry department (see Amby Nichols), and eventually became the SDSU faculty representative to the NCAA. The Jim Malik Award named in his honor recognizes outstanding Scholarship in the SDSU atheletic program. From the 1963 Faculty Register: "Great professor. Excellent lecturer, vitally interested in his students; stimulates them by bringing in outside material for demonstrations... Professor will go out of his way to help students." Malik's obituary in the Union-Tribune.
(????-1991) served 1970-1991; Ph.D. '67 UCSD (George Feher). Physical chemist, studied Zemman and Stark effects, and was among early proponents of ultrafast spectroscopy, carrying out picosecond time-resolved studies of organic molecules such as rhodamine 6G and other aromatics. Malley was the postdoc advisor in 1974 to a young French scientist named Gérard Mourou, who would go on to share the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for the further development of ultra-short laser pulses.
James H. Mathewson
served 1964-1992; B.A. '51 Harvard, Ph.D. '59 Johns Hopkins (Alsoph Corwin), postdoc U.C. Berkeley (Henry Rapaport). Jim's doctoral work with Corwin was on pyrrole natural products (hemes and chlorophylls), and his postdoc focused on chlorophylls from green sulfur bacteria, anticipating by decades a continuing interest of this department in the chemical activity of aquatic bacteria. Jim headed SDSU's Oceanography program for quite a while. He is a Korean War veteran. "I remained in the Naval Reserve (as did Clay Sharts) collecting enough credits to retire with benefits. I used the Navy connection to work with the chemical oceanography research group in the navy labs on Point Loma, and got students into the labs and onto research vessels. I worked on mercury in seawater (with Herb Weiss), using satellites to measure productivity in surface waters (with Al Zirino), and other stuff. On some trips we took Walt Jones along. After retirement I worked with Alan McCormack in science education on visual-spatial teaching and learning. My paper describing the problem (Visual-spatial thinking: An aspect of science overlooked by educators, Science Education, 1999) still shows 381 citations as of this evening. In my years in San Diego I rowed on masters crews for Mission Bay Rowing association and The San Diego Rowing Club. My best medal was a national bronze in Georgia. The racing season starts with the San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay March 24 and 25 this year. I also was a crew member on some racing yachts out of San Diego. So I'm hoisting a beer to all you chemists working in the most connected and relevant area in the sciences, mystifying students and pushing out the boundaries of knowledge. Even my doctor is intimidated: "I don't know how that works, but you probably do." I am living in a retirement facility in the redwoods above Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay with my wife Sue, who retired from the Biology Department. Regards to all the superannuated flatulaters that check in." --Jim Mathewson
Shelli R. McAlpine
served 2000-; B.S. UIUC, Ph.D. '97 UCLA, postdoc Harvard. Organic chemist.
served 1946-1947; B.S. '46 SDSC. An Assistant Instructor in Chemistry during the post-war faculty build-up, in 1948 he was appointed to the Zoology faculty and served for many years.
served ????-, biochemist. Kathy is a scientist in Bill Stumph's lab and a lecturer in the department, heading up the biochem lab course for several years, and now also managing the combined Chem 100/105.
Claude F. Merzbacher
served 1947-1950; B.S. '29 U. Pennsylvania. A licensed chemical engineer, Merzbacher instructed the lower division courses before transferring to the Physical Science Department. His wife Helen was a business skills teacher and later a guidance counselor at several high schools in the area. Merzbacher's description in the Robinson History.
Elmer A. Messner
served 1931-1945. A.B. '27, M.A. '28 Stanford. A pharmacist, he taught quantitative analysis and was renowned for his high standards and occasional eccentricities. For eight years, from the departure of Leo Pierce in 1931 to the arrival of Amby Nichols in 1939, all the courses in Chemistry at San Diego State College were taught by Earl Messner and Dudley Robinson. (Photograph from the 1937 Del Sudoesta yearbook.) Messner's description in the Robinson History.
Robert P. Metzger
served 1963, 1968-2014; B.S. UCLA, M.S. SDSC, Ph.D. SDSU/UCSD (Arne Wick). Research in carbohydrate biochemistry. Robert received the first-ever Ph.D. awarded by the CSU. His first listing among the chemistry faculty is as a lecturer in 1963, and was elected a AAAS Fellow in 1968. He was originally hired into the Physical Sciences faculty, joining Chemistry when Physical Sciences was dispersed, where (though now retired) he continues his engagement in and advocacy for science education.
Dorothy A. Miller
served 1947-1952, 1960-1961; A.B. SE Missouri State U., M.S. Iowa State U.; Freshman instructor. She married to become Dorothy A. Settle, and returned in 1960 for a single year as SDSU Chemistry's first female Assistant Professor. (Photograph from the 1949 Del Sudoesta yearbook.) Miller's description in the Robinson History.
William Neal Moquin
served 1946-1948; B.S. '36 UC Berkeley, Ph.D. Ohio State U. (M. L. Pool). Moquin had been a chemistry student at SDSU before completing his degree at Berkeley, and followed that with graduate training in radiation chemistry. Moquin's description in the Robinson History.
served 1950-1951, 1955-1960; B.S. Oregon State U. An analytical chemist, Mosen left the department to join Gulf General Atomics. He returned as a lecturer in 1955, credited as working at Rohr Aircraft in 1950 and then later at General Atomics. Mosen's description in the Robinson History.
Ambrose R. Nichols, Jr.
served 1939-1961, B.S. '36 UC Berkeley, Ph.D. '39 U. Wisconsin. The department's first physical chemist, the first official Chairman of the department (1946-1949), a Manhattan Project alum, and first Chairman of the San Diego State Faculty Senate, Nichols left San Diego State to become the first President of Sonoma State College. He stepped down from that position in 1970, continuing as a chemistry professor until his retirement in 1976. A classroom building at Sonoma State was named for him that year, and he was named the first President Emeritus by the CSU trustees in 1983. He served as president of the Santa Rosa Symphony Association Board and was active in bringing the Elderhostel program to northern California. He passed away in 2000, but his beneficial influence on the SDSU chemistry department is still resoundingly attested to by his former colleagues. Nichols' description in the Robinson History.
H. Edward O'Neal
(?????-2021) served 1961-1994; B.S. '53 Harvard, Ph.D. '57 U. Washington (N.W. Gregory), postdoc USC (S.W. Benson). Physical chemist specializing in gas-phase kinetics and thermochemical kinetic calculations, an area that he pioneered as a post-doc with Professor Sidney Benson at USC. He and Benson co-authored the text Kinetic Data on Gas Phase Unimolecular Reactions. Ed was also active in photochemical kinetics of small molecules, which led to a close collaboration with Morey Ring on silane chemistry, and his work was supported by the NSF. Ed received SDSU's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1986. " Ed was a wonderful fellow with a great spirit. Although he retired shortly before Karen and I started at SDSU, he still came in a few times per week to his office, which was next to mine, mostly to work on papers that he was writing with Morey Ring about their silane work. Their collaboration had been remarkably fruitful, and they still had a storehouse of results that they wanted to publish. Ed was generous and helpful to me when I started out. He gave me notes to some classes and advice about teaching and research. Since I took over teaching Thermodynamics from him, I’d sometimes ask him questions about nuances in the subject. With a smile and a laugh, he’d respond with something like, “I knew I should have gone golfing today instead of coming in.” But then the next time, he’d say, “Dave, I think I solved the problem!” Ed was clearly a scholar, and not so much because he could solve thorny Thermo problems. In addition to his numerous research publications, he co-authored a General Chemistry textbook with Clay Sharts and Larry Bennett. The bound copy that Ed gave me indicates that it was copyrighted and perhaps in its final draft stages, although I’m not sure it was published (I could be wrong about this point). He also co-authored with Sydney Benson---a PChemist then at the Stanford Research Institute--- a monograph entitled, “Kinetic Data on Gas Phase Unimolecular Reactions,” published by the National Bureau of Standards in 1970." --David Pullman From the 1963 Faculty Register: "You might as well take the best--and O'Neal is. Knowledgeable and friendly."
Karen I. Peterson
served 1994-, B.S. SDSU, Ph.D. U. Colorado, postdoc Harvard (Klemperer). Spectroscopist. Karen is a former professor at U. Rhode Island who left to join the SDSU faculty as a lecturer, teaching at various times the advanced physical chemistry lab, graduate courses in thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, and freshman chemistry. She acquired the role of undergraduate advisor with Vince Landis' departure in 2000 and has also served as graduate advisor.
(1894-1968) served 1923-1931. B.S. Grinnell, M.S. Tulane, Ph.D. Stanford. The first enduring chemistry professor in the department, and apparently one tough character. His lasting contributions include serving as an example and inspiration to his students, including Dr. Earl F. Nation, awarded SDSU's 2004 Alumni of Distinction Award. Pierce's description in the History.
served 1994-, A.B. Princeton, M.A., Ph.D. Harvard (Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach), postdoc MIT (Silvia Ceyer). Surface scientist. A classic, big-machine physical chemist, Dave inherited the Ring/O'Neal lab in the basement of the old Chem/Geology building as the home for his ultrahigh vacuum system for characterizing desorption processes, and wishes he could have that room back after the mandated move to the new, compartmentalized CSL building.
Robert E. Ponsford
served 1953-1954; B.S. SDSC. Assistant Instructor in Chemistry.
(Mrs. Lauren C. Post)
served 1945-1946. Opera soprano and instructor following Messner's departure. (Photo from May 16 1946 Daily Aztec.) Post's description in the Robinson History.
Philip S. Rader
served 1955-1958; A.B. Middle tennessee State. Lecturer in Chemistry.
served 1963-1994, B.S. UCLA, Ph.D. U. Illinois (David Curtin), postdoc U. Washington (Ken Wiberg). Organic chemist. "An outstanding lecturer" - V. Landis.. A Navy vet of the Korean War (radar support on a destroyer) and among the most prominent and productive researchers in the Department's history, Bill's work is in the area of chemiluminescene centered on 1,2-dioxetanes. The work was supported by PRF, ARO, and NSF, and Bill was called to serve a term as an NSF program officer. Another interest is photochemistry, which was supported by a grant from IBM. In the early sixties he received The Distinguished Professor Award of SDSU and was nominated by SDSU for the Statewide Outstanding Professor Award. Although retired in San Diego, Bill continues his research into organic radicals using computational quantum methods. He also recently taught an advanced Computational Chemistry class for the department.
served 1962-1995; B.S. UCLA, Ph.D. '60 U. Washington (D. Ritter), postdoc '60-'61 Johns Hopkins. Research in main group inorganic chemistry, particularly silanes. Morey's research pursued the gas-phase synthesis and kinetics of silanes, enjoying a long collaboration with Ed O'Neal in this work and financial support from ARO, NSF, AFOSR, DOE, Xerox, and the California Comptech Program. A former department Chair, and recipient of SDSU's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1985.
Dudley H. Robinson
served 1928-????; B.S. '27 Sugar Engineering Louisiana State U., M.S. '32 U. Iowa, Ph.D. '42 UCLA (Anton Burg). He and Chesney Moe of Physics obtained their Ph.D.'s from UCLA night school while teaching here, pursuing research during summers and week ends. Long-time Chair of the department (1932-1946), WWII Navy veteran, Chairman of the Division of Physical Sciences (like a dean), he also lectured in freshman chemistry and wrote the original Department History. "A rare bird, a true San Diego native, his grandfather was a very early SD mayor." - V. Landis. Robinson's description in his own History.
Stephen B. W. Roeder served 1968-; A.B. Dartmouth, Ph.D. '65 U. Wisconsin (E. Stejskal and W. Vaughn). Magnetic resonance spectroscopist. Steve was hired with a joint appointment to Chemistry and Physics, and continues to be active in both departments despite his recent appointment to Dean of SDSU's Imperial Valley Campus. His many terms of service to the University have included serving as Chair of the Department of Physics from 1975-78 and Chair of Chemistry from 1979 to 1985, then again Chair of Physics from 1991-1994 and Chair of Chemistry from 1995-1998. He was appointed Interim Dean of the College of Sciences from 1998-2000, and served as coordinator of the off-campus centers for three years before taking on the position in the Imperial Valley. Steve has also been active in the development of the Liberal Studies Program at SDSU.
Gillian A. Roehrig
served 2002-2004; B.S. U. Southampton, M.S., Ph.D. U. Arizona. Research in chemical education. Left to join the faculty at University of Minnesota, our second professor lost to the Golden Gophers.
Melvyn K. Ross
served 1939-1949; A.B. '39 SDSC, M.S. '42 USC. An inorganic chemist and one of the few to keep the department running during the war years, Ross started as a lab assistant in 1939 and rapidly rose to teach the general and organic lectures as well as courses in Physics. He was first listed as faculty in 1944, when he took over teaching duties on behalf of Dudley Robinson who was on military leave and Amby Nichols who was on sabbatical. Ross' description in the Robinson History.
served 1946-1972; A.B. '31, Ph.D. '39 Stanford. Analytical chemist. Department Chair from 1949 to 1952. "He taught analytical chemistry which I think he learned training chemistry technicians for Shell in WW II." - V. Landis. Rowe's description in the Robinson History.
Eva H. Schwartz
served 1946-1951, 1963; B.S., M.S. U.C. Berkeley. An extraordinarily dedicated freshman lab instructor. (Photograph from the 1949 Del Sudoesta yearbook.) Schwartz's description in the Robinson History.
Sharts (Feb 9, 1931 - Jan 29, 1999)
served 1962-1999; B.S. Berkeley, Ph.D. '59 Cal Tech (John Roberts, a leading physical organic chemist). Organic chemist specializing in fluorocarbons. "Clay served in Navy Chemical Warfare labs during the Korean period. He retired from the Navy Reserves as a four-striper (Captain), which is impressive. After a brief stay at DuPont, Clay came to SDSU where he was active in the Freshman program and pursued research in the synthesis of organofluorine compounds. He co-authored a book with William Sheppard on Organofluorine Chemistry, which is a milestone in the field." - W. Richardson. From the 1963 Faculty Register: "A down-to-earth, practical guy. His lectures are well-organized, thorough, and complete; his sense of humor is renown [sic]." Clay's obituary in the Feb 7, 1999 Union Tribune.
served 1957-1963; A.B. SDSC, M.A. and Ph.D. Washington University. Came from the Hanford Works to SDSU and set up our Radiochemistry program. Sheppard was Larry Bennett's undergraduate research advisor on a project in transition metal complex kinetics.
Smith (Sep 12, 1960 - Oct 24, 2022)
served 1990-2022. B.S. Lewis and Clark College, Ph.D. MIT, postdoc U. Delaware. Electrochemist. An extraordinary colleague in all respects, Diane was long-time chair of the department's Curriculum Committee, led an internationally recognized program in electrochemical characterization of hydrogen-bonded complexes, and served as the mainstay instructor of Chem 201, the second semester general chemistry course, for over 20 years. Diane was awarded the Jaroslav Heyrovsky prize for Molecular Electrochemistry by the International Society of Electrochemistry shortly before her untimely death from scleroderma in 2022. Fondly remembered by generations of undergraduate and graduate students.
served ????-, synthetic organic chemist. Sam received his Ph.D. at the University of London and post-doc'd at UC Davis. Sam is technically on the equipment support staff, but is also an adjunct in his capacity as an excellent synthetic chemist of bioactive compounds. With Hellberg, Sam is a founding member of the chemistry faculty at the graduate campus of the Tijuana Technological Institute.
served 1946-????; A.B. '39 and Ph.D. '42 W. Virginia U. (E.C.H. Davies). A WWII and Korean War Navy vet, Spangler chaired the department twice (1952, 1955-1958) and taught analytical and physical chemistry. Spangler's description in the Robinson History.
Charles (Jack) J. Stewart
served 1955-1993, biochemist with research interest in CoA. received his B.A. in 1950 from San Diego State College (later SDSU), his ('52) M.S. and Ph.D. ('54) from Oregon State, and did postdoctoral research in Germany. "I had Amby Nichols, Dudley Robinson, Bob Rowe, Bob Isensee, John Spangler, and Lionel Joseph as profs. Hal Walba joined the faculty during my Senior Year. After 4 years at Oregon State and a Fulbright to Germany I returned as a Lecturer, Fall 1955. (A story in itself) The faculty had increased to Amby Nichols, Dudley Robinson, Bob Rowe, Bob Isensee, John Spangler, Lionel Joseph, Hal Walba, Vince Landis, and Neal Harrington. Vince was just completing his degree, Harrington was teaching the Chem 2A, 2B (Chem 100) Lecture and Labs. Vince and I had 4 freshman labs to teach in temporary buildings T22A. or B or T 27, with class size raging from 27 to 36." - C.J. Stewart. A former department Chair (1967-1970), Jack "was admired and appreciated for his creative and considerate scheduling of faculty teaching schedules." - H. Walba. His NIH-funded research focused on mechanisms of enzyme activity, specificaally CoA, and he was awarded a Max Planck Society Fellowship to work in Heidelberg 1979-1980.
served 1983-, B.S. Purdue, Ph.D. Cal Tech. Biochemist specializing in molecular mechanisms of gene expression in higher organisms.
served 2000-2004, B.S. East China Metallurgical Engineering Institute, Ph.D. U. Minnesota. Analytical chemist with research in designing chromatographic substrates.
served 1985-; B.S. Mandalay U., Ph.D. Iowa State U. (E.D. Yeung). Analytical spectroscopist. Bill's interest is in the application of multiwave mixing to low detection limit quantitative analysis, most recently in the area of nucleic acid characterization.
Earl P. Wadsworth, Jr. (Mar 30, 1927 - Apr 6, 1999)
served 1956-1990; B.S. U. New Hampshire, Ph.D. '56 Iowa State U. (C.A. Goetz). Analytical chemist, and served as Chair for several 3-year terms. "Largely responsible for the excellent instrumentation in our 1960 Chemistry/Geology Building. As Chair he hired Bill Tong and accomplished an Herculean feat getting Bill's lab equipped. He was very supportive of the research efforts of young faculty members." - H. Walba. "Earl gave 200% effort when he played baseball. We played a game with the faculty against the students in the old stadium, and Earl got all banged up. He would explain the theory behind any question you asked, so you could never get away in 5 minutes." - L. Hellberg. From the 1963 Faculty Register: "Lower division students have trouble comprehending the material in lectures. You'll enjoy him if you can come up to his level." Prof. Wadsworth's obituary in the 1999 Union Tribune.
served 1949-1986; B.S. '46 U. Massachusetts, Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley (G.E.K. Branch). An organic chemist, Chair of the department 1961-1964, and instrumental in securing the Joint Doctoral Program in the department. Hal Walba graduated from the famous Boston Latin School (1939) and received his BS degree from the U. of Mass. During WWII (1943-1945) he was a lead navigator on B17 "Flying Fortresses" and flew 30 missions over Germany. After the war he received his Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley and then came to SDSU. He was elected a AAAS Fellow in 1963. In the early sixties, Hal administered the NSF Undergraduate Research Programs. Virtually all the chemistry faculty involved in research supervised students in this program. One of the first participants in the URP program was Larry Bennett. Also see collaboration with Isensee above. Walba's description in the Robinson History.
served 1994-1999; B.A. '86 UCSD, Ph.D. '91 UC Berkeley (R. Bergman), Postdoc Scripps (K.B. Sharpless). Organometallic chemist and NSF Career Award recipient, specializing in the development of ligands for transition metal complexes. Now on the Chemistry faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.
Physical chemist, served 1962-1966; B.A. Reed College, Ph.D. U. Delaware. "Bill Ware's research area was in Photochemistry where he was a pioneer in Flash Photochemistry, a method to detect and characterize species with extremely short life-times. His work was generously supported by the NSF. The University of Minnesota 'stole' him from us and he later joined the Photochemistry Center at the University of Western Ontario. He was an avid collector of violins." - W. Richardson. Ware's description in the Robinson History.
Keith M. Wellman
served 1963-1965; B.S. South Dakota School of Mines, Ph.D. Northwestern.
Quincy A. Wemple, Jr.
served 1953-1955; M.A. UCLA. Lecturer in Chemistry.
served 1958-????; B.S. and M.S. and Ph.D. '39 U. Minnesota (W. M. Sandstrom). Wick "was a distinguished carbohydrate biochemist. He came to us from Scripps Metabolic Clinic with major grant support, and 30+ publications. Robert P. Metzger earned his Ph.D, the first in the Joint Doctoral Program, with Arne as his mentor. Arne was chairman of the department 1964-1967 and headed the Joint Doctoral Committee set up to work out relationships with UCSD." - H. Walba.
Eugene P. Wilkinson
served 1939-1940. The first "Assistant in Chemistry," he left for the Navy and rose to Vice Admiral and Commander of the Atlantic Submarine Fleet. Wilkinson's description in the Robinson History, and his entry in Wikipedia.
served 1961-2003; B.A. Wesleyan, Ph.D. '59 Northwestern U. (A. Frost). A physical chemist, John received his Ph.D. under the direction of Arthur Frost, coauthor with Ralph Pearson on a well-known kinetics text. John also served as our long-time coordinator of the freshman chemistry labs before retiring to divide his time between a home in Coronado and a farm in Minnesota.
John G. Wyllie
served 1951-1952; A.B. SDSC. Assistant in Chemistry.
SDSU Chemistry Staff Through the Ages
This is never going to be a complete list, in part because there are periodic oscillations in administrative philosophy towards the assignment of staff to individual departments versus centralized groups, especially in the case of the technical staff. The more things change....
Administrative Support Coordinator (ran the main office), following Michelle Johnson, for several years. Susan moved in 2001 to support the less nervous faculty in Astronomy for her last few years at SDSU, retiring at the end of 2006.
Electronics technician, and a master at keeping legacy technology on its feet. Retired in October 2005.
Office manager, joined the department in 2006 and has guided the unruly faculty through all matters RTP, course scheduling, TA scheduling, hiring, and so on ever since. Has kept the ship running smoothly through the Recession, numerous personnel changes, and those random adjustments to forms and procedures that keep our administration so entertained. And keeps us on top of the important things, like staying in touch with our friends and coworkers in the hospital (three of us in two weeks, once!).
Assigned to the department in 1961, and a linchpin for over a decade. "After Irene Janeck went to the office of the Division of Physical Sciences with Robinson, we generally had to use the college's secretarial pool. We were able to get her assigned to the department in 1961. She was really our first departmental secretary and a great one." - H. Walba. "Mary [Coleman] and I could tell Earl and Erlene stories till the cows came home. When he was chair, they both smoked up a storm as they shared an office in CG. She was a good old gal. Washingtonian like me. She was from Cowiche by the Tieton reservoir near Yakima... Now that's country! She married Pete, retired navy chief, and they moved to the Ozarks and went fishing." - V. Landis.
Solutions Storeroom supervisor. Retired in 1978.
Administrative Support Coordinator, i.e. Person Who Really Runs the Department, from 2001 to 2005, who handled the TA assignments and coordinating things with the Dean's and other stratospheric offices so that others could concentrate on teaching students.
Electronics technician. Yet another ex-Navy man, Jerry worked with Bill Hansen until about 1981.
Glassblower. Originally from Hungary, Cseri is still remembered by many as an outstanding glassworker. "Steve Cseri was one of the most talented glassblowers that I had encountered. I addition, he was a nice guy. If you could draw a sketch of it, Steve could make it. He made some specialized photochemical glassware for me which couldn't be found in a catalog and it proved very useful. One of his greatest contributions was building vacuum racks, which is a custom job that requires the glassblower to be on site. He built one for me which got a lot of use, but this was minor compared to those he built for Ring and O'Neal. They had a large laboratory almost completely filled with vacuum racks. The cost to hire a glassblower on site to make these would have been prohibitive." - W. Richardson.
Our much beloved graduate secretary and department archivist, Mary joined the department in 1972 and became its heart for some thirty years before retiring at the end of 2004 after a year in the short-staffed Biology department. Mary would not claim to have actually chaired the department, but evidence would suggest otherwise. Mary passed away in 2010, a loss still keenly felt.
Ran the department office -- reception and scheduling seminar speaker itineraries and tons of clerical work and all the dealing with floundering students and faculty -- from Fall 2004 through Fall 2005.
Electronics technician. "Marlin Enders was a genius at coming up with our electronic needs. How he loved to conjure up a gadget for us. As with many technicians in the department, Marlin was a retired Chief Petty Officer." - W. Richardson.
Stockroom supervisor for the freshman labs for many years.
William Fischer, Jr.
Machinist, pump repairman, and general person-for-every-tough-job from 1970 to his retirement in 2001. Brian learned many of his machining skills on the job, working first with Larry Rickel and then taking over the Chem shop when Larry was moved to the College.
Secretary and Receptionist from about 1995 to 2001.
Secretary, moved to run the show in Geological Sciences, and retired from SDSU at the end of 2006.
Electronics technician. An Air Force veteran whose second career at SDSU spanned 26 years. Bill, along with Larry Rickel, was lost to the College staff in the mid-90's. He knew better than to stick around for long after that, and retired in 2000. Bill passed away in early 2007.
Glassblower. Worked with Steve Cseri, and still operates San Diego's only technical glass shop downtown.
Administrative Support Coordinator. A superb organizer and a longtime linchpin of the Department Office.
Our first department secretary, hired in 1946, and also wife to Dudley Robinson. She went with Robinson to the Division of Physical Sciences (later the College of Sciences) and from there to a communal college secretarial pool.
NMR Facility Director. LeRoy received his Ph.D. with Reilly Jensen at SDSU, and now runs the 3-spectrometer NMR lab, contributing a great deal to the considerable synthetic work in the Department.
Served 1985-2010. Safety Officer and Organic Labs Storeroom Supervisor, Richard for a time also maintained the chemistry computer lab. Richard kept the faculty informed of the safety regulations, and was always ready to work with groups to find the best way to comply with them (when they were willing to listen).
Our first department technician, hired in 1946. "He was Bill Fischer's predecessor. In the 1950's and early 60's he ran the department. No one was allowed in the storeroom without his permission. He was an ex-Navy Chief. You did it his way or else. I got along with him because I treated him with civility and respect. " - C. Stewart.
Business Manager. An SDSU alum, Ken has worked as the organic stockroom supervisor as well as the shipping/receiving and budget manager for the department.
Clerk/receptionist, joining the department in Fall 2007 and moving on to Geomlogy in 2014.
Machinist from 1960 to 1970.
Solutions Storeroom Supervisor.
Machinist from 1970 until absorbed into the College staff during one of the periodic Staff Upheavals sought by the administration. Retired in 2000.
Stockroom supervisor. Frank was born in Nebraska, served in WWII and Korea, retiring from military life in 1965 to come to SDSU Chemistry, where he worked until 1982. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 86, preceded just the month before by his wife of 61 years, Vera Verdale Rust. "I think Frank was the last (followed Fischer) of a series of Navy Chief hospital corpsmen in our stockrooms and solutions room. They knew filing, procedures et cetera, and we always had great first aid on hand. He went from freshmen to top dog. Loved square dancing." - V. Landis. "I had the great experience of working along side Frank here at San Diego State in the Chemistry Department. He was a man of great honesty and character. Although nearly thirty-five years older than I, he would run me ragged when I tried to keep up with him. He was missed when he left SDSU and I miss him even more now. While the University makes it clear that none of us are irreplaceable, Frank came close." - K. Long.
Switchboard operator who assisted with the department's clerical work until Irene Janeck was hired.
Efficient clerk/typist/receptionist, from 2000 to 2003.
Machinist hired to replace Brian Funk when Brian retired. Benno learned machining in his father's medical equipment shop in Germany, and has since added experience in owning shops for cabinetry and bicycle parts manufacture. An avid fisherman and motorcyclist.
Dorothy was the secretary for Grubbs, Hellberg, and Richardson. "She was outstanding in typing and to our embarrassment many times grammar. An avid runner and hiker." - W. Richardson.
Administrative Support Coordinator for the 2001/2002 academic year.
Analytical technician. Bob Steed retired from the Navy as a Lt. Commander and later attended SDSU where he received a BS in Chemistry. Bill Richardson remembers him as "an outstanding student in Qualitative Organic Analysis. He was later hired as an instrumental technician, where he performed an invaluable service to the department."
Secretary to Jim Cobble, for his work both at the Graduate Division and in Chemistry.
The initial list was compiled by Andrew Cooksy from Dudley Robinson's history for pre-1973 data and Cooksy's dim recollection and dimmer research for more recent data. Substantial additions and corrections are thanks to Marie Ayers-Grace, Lars Hellberg, Vince Landis, Ken Long, Robert P. metzger, Bill Richardson, Steve Roeder, Jack Stewart, and Hal Walba; many of their additions are quoted without attribution. Thanks in particular to Mary Coleman Jackson for providing the electronic version of the Robinson history. The remaining errors are Cooksy's.