Alumni News from Reed Magazine, June 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve dipped into the Reed magazine for news about Reed chemists so it seems appropriate that the title of the summer 2015 issue was Rediscovering A Master, and the cover featured a photo of one of Reed’s master teachers, Prof. Sarah Wagner-McCoy [English 2011-].

“Reedies Unite to Honor Chemistry Prof” (p. 12), a feature article about the legacy of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [1993-2014] could, perhaps, be squeezed into the ‘rediscovery’ category, but it would be a tight squeeze because it still feels like Maggie is working away … just a bit further down the hall than I can see. Maggie’s story has been told elsewhere, but it is still remarkable to recall that she was the first woman to earn tenure in the Reed chemistry department. One sign of the deep affection and respect that all of us held for Maggie was the establishment of the Maggie Geselbracht Women in Chemistry Fund. This fund, which was established by Maggie’s husband, Tom Armstrong, underwrites summer research for women chemistry students and provides money for traveling to conferences to present their research. The first honorees were Natalie Keehan ’15 and Eve Mozur ’15, both of whom attended the national ACS meeting in Denver. As of June 2015, the fund had received gifts from 139 donors and raised more than $140,000. Gifts can still be made to the fund at

Another feature, “Two Seniors Nab Watsons,” profiled Reed’s most recent winners of Thomas J Watson fellowships (p. 9): Rennie Meyers ’15 and Sasha Peters ’15. The latest winners are planning to study the formation of artificial coral reefs (Meyers), and abandoned cities in the Soviet sphere (Peters). The last Reedie to win a Watson was chemist Cole Perkinson ’13, who traveled to Africa to research Zimbabwean music.

Sadly, only one Reed chemist submitted an entry for the Class Notes section: Karen Hendricks Seaward ’73 (thesis: “Looking into a Solid-State Diode: Profiling the Distribution of Diffused and Implanted Arsenic in Boron-Grown Silicon Crystals” with Prof. William Weir [chemistry 1967-84]).  Karen wrote that she had retired in 2014 after 40 years of “play” in chemistry and materials science, and that her time was now filled with “sports, volunteer science teaching, and extreme gardening!”

In Memoriam contained profiles of two recently deceased Reed chemists and a long-time friend of Reed chemists and non-chemists alike.

  • Robert Fristom ’43 passed away in mid-November 2014.  Bob had transferred to read where he earned his degree working with Prof. Fred Ayres [chemistry 1940-70] on a thesis titled, “An Investigation of Phase Equilibria in the Ternary System: Ethanolamine-Water-Potassium Carbonate.” After earning an MA with honors at University of Oregon, Bob’s scientific career was interrupted by military service during WWII. He returned from the war to earn a PhD in physical chemistry from Stanford, get married. After a short postdoc, Bob would spend 44 years working at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. Children, grandchildren, over 100 research papers, and multiple scientific awards followed.
  • Avid dancer and trombonist, Kenneth Hall ’49, passed away in January 2015. After completing his thesis (“A Study of the Adsorption of Mercury Vapor on Silver Surfaces using Radioactive Mercury II”) with Prof. Arthur Scott, Ken earned an MS from UC Berkeley in nuclear chemistry, and a PhD in physical and inorganic chemistry from the University of Michigan. Three decades spent working as a research associate at the Chevron Research Company didn’t diminish Ken’s  love of music. He founded the Jubilee Jazz Band in 1969 and also played in a 17-piece ’40s-style band. He is survived by his children, two sons and a daughter.
  • One of the Chemistry department’s great friends, Takeshi “Tak” Fujino, owner of the Woodstock Wine & Deli, passed away in mid-December 2014. Tak, a California native, was interned during WWII, and completed his high school education in Arkansas. However, after the war ended, he moved back west, got married, raised three children, and opened the most popular dining spot for generations of Reedies, the Wine & Deli, in 1984. As Rabeca Reese MALS ’86 so aptly put it, “Tak was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He had an extraordinary memory for faces and names and for making people feel welcome and remembered. He really cared about friends and customers and almost always had a kind word or thought to pass along.” Hear! Hear! Rest in peace, Tak.

Finally, the back page of the Rediscovering A Master issue told the story of DIMWIT and Doctor John, i.e, the late Prof. John Hancock [chemistry 1955-87]. John was a master of many trades: molecular symmetry (many of his thesis students attempted the synthesis of dodecahedrane, C20H20), period music (John started the instrumental portion of the Reed Collegium), the construction of Reed’s first digital computer (DIMWIT was built from pinball relays recovered from illegal pinball machines the county sheriff had confiscated) and puns (DIMWIT stands for Dodecahedrane Isomer Machine With Internal Translation). Congratulations, John. You got the last word.

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