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   from the issue of September 28, 2006

Chemistry event draws alumni back to campus


The UNL Department of Chemistry hosted a Chemistry Alumni Reunion Sept. 15-16, bringing together alumni from across the nation.

ALUMNI WEEKEND - Chemistry alumni, faculty, staff and students interact during a Sept. 15 wine and cheese reception at the Sheldon...
ALUMNI WEEKEND - Chemistry alumni, faculty, staff and students interact during a Sept. 15 wine and cheese reception at the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery. Courtesy image.

"Some of the alumni traveled to us from great distances," said Pat Dussault, chair of the department.

Martin Durney, who received his doctorate in 1972 and is vice president of catalysts and chemicals for Johnson Matthey in New Jersey, ventured to campus to reconnect with classmates.

"I called Mike (Brady) and Don (Novotny), telling them 'Come out for the reunion'," said Durney.

Brady, who earned a master's in science in 1972, is with Albemare Catalysis in Los Angeles. Novotny, who earned a doctorate in 1971, traveled from Indiana to round out the trio.

"It is great to be back catching up with these guys, seeing the campus again," said Novotny.

For many, the old campus stomping grounds were unrecognizable.

"I wanted to visit my old lab and was completely disorientated," said John Dietrich, director of the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Laboratory. "The walls were in totally different places."

Extensive renovations to Hamilton Hall made it difficult for some alumni to revisit old haunts. For other alumni, Hamilton Hall was completely foreign. Construction of Hamilton Hall was completed in 1970 with Avery Hall the prior home of the department.

Adrian George, vice chair of chemistry, led tours of Avery Hall.

"They had a great time trying to decide where their labs had been, because the last renovation of Avery has changed the position of almost all the walls and rooms, and what had been here and there," said George.

Along with absorbing institutional memories, chemistry faculty, staff and administrators used the weekend as a learning opportunity.

"The best evaluation of the success of a teaching program is the success of the alums," said George. "We get feedback as to what was good and what was bad, what should be changed and what should be retained in the chemistry program."

The alumni feedback is especially key as it is based both on their time at UNL as students and professional careers.

"The department has an Industrial Advisory Board composed of alumni and local business leaders who provide us with advice," said Mark Griep, associate professor and organizer for the alumni weekend.

While program evaluations and professional connections are an important result of the weekend, Dussault said the department also realizes other benefits.

"Some of the greater benefits are often more intangible," said Dussault. "The alumni are the living history of the department; they remind us that we are part of a larger organization and a larger effort - something that existed before we were here and will go on after we are gone."

Raychelle Burks is a chemistry doctoral candidate from California.



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