Class of 1971, PhD in Chemical Engineering
Emeritus Professor, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Next year will be the 50th anniversary from when I received my PhD from the UA. I also got an MS in 1968. I began at the UA in the fall of 1965 after receiving a BS in chemical engineering from University of California, Berkeley. John Heibel also started at the UA with me.
A colleague at UMass Lowell said that the only reason that I got into grad school at the UA was because Don White had a quota to take two hippies from Berkeley each year. When I got to the UA, Don offered me a half-time TA position and Bill Ahrens was my officemate. We had plywood partitioned offices in the downstairs of the unit ops lab next to the study room for the undergraduate students (now known as the Green Room).
I remember that Bill Ahrens, Bob Abbott, and Dan Pyzel introduced us to the local Mexican food and the bars. They told of one harrowing experience where they were hiding in the men's room after a fight had broken out in a bar and guys were going at each other with cue sticks from a pool table. I also remember the graduate students used to play a serious game called contract bridge at lunch many times in Dr. Rehm's office.
Dr. Don White's was my research advisor, and I worked on dynamic testing of the plasticating extruder. The machine was on the main floor of the unit ops lab. I had to collect my data using the DEC PDP 9 computer. I did that work late at night when other students were done with the computer and I could dynamically test the extruder and do data acquisition that was stored on the computer.
I married Jean Walker in 1970. Ken Simpson, also a PhD student, was my best man. I finished my PhD in July 1971 with a minor in physical metallurgy and was fortunate to have a job offer from the Lowell Technological Institute of Lowell, MA (now UMass Lowell). I was lucky since my other offer was a postdoc in Australia. UMass Lowell had started a plastics engineering program in 1954 and needed to get ABET accreditation for all its BS engineering programs. I was hired to start teaching graduate courses in plastics processing. Later, I also helped get a doctoral program for plastics engineering approved. I was the chair of the department for 18 years. I had a great career and spent 39 years as a professor before I retired in 2010.
My wife and I have three children: Richard, Raquel, and Jennifer who were 11, 7 and 3 years old when we took a cross country trip to go back to Tucson. We did miss Arizona and in 1981/82 I took a sabbatical with Don White to again work on the extruder. At that time Don White had received NSF funding to make biofuel from waste cellulosics and recycled scrap plastics. The extruder had been moved to the UA farm research area which was north of the campus next to the Rillito River. Don's research was timely since it occurred at a time when there was a severe oil crisis. Unfortunately, the crisis passed, and the national politics did not lead to a sustainable program for the biofuel.
I have been a professor emeritus for ten years. Plastics engineering has become a major program in many parts of the world. Over the years, I was invited to many countries, including China, India, Germany, Austria, the UK, Israel, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Spain and more. I must be one of the older alumni, but I can't catch up with Dr. Dick Edwards, who was Dr. White's first doctoral student. I still attend Zoom meetings as an Emeritus Professor of UMass Lowell.
I remember how I wandered the hallways of the College of Mines building and met Dr. Larry Gould, who was an emeritus professor at the UA. He was a young geological engineer when he assisted Admiral Byrd with exploring the North Pole. I believe he said he was in charge of the sled dogs.
I had a wonderful career and look back with satisfaction that I made it through graduate school at the UA. I am forever grateful for the opportunity that I had to further my education and my career.