Professor conducting science experiment

Photo courtesy of UW Archives

Thank you, Professor: College of Letters & Science: The “Science”

By Badger Insider Readers

Chemistry

Thank you, Professor John Wright for teaching us so much more than analytic chemistry! You took a group of over-confident freshman and taught us to think bigger, work harder, and collaborate more than we ever imagined we would want or need to do that year. More importantly, you got to know us as people and willingly played the role of informal but trusted adviser. I doubt you remember my visit to you sophomore year when I was doing far worse in organic than I had in analytic chemistry, but your supportive words of wisdom kept me going that semester and beyond. Thank you for teaching me to forgive myself, learn from my mistakes, and make learning a lifetime sport. I’m pretty sure none of those subjects were on our chemistry syllabus, but they were among the most important lessons of my undergrad journey.

All the best,
Jessica Donze Black ’96
Arlington, Virginia

I chose Professor Shakhashiri for Chemistry 103 because he received such high student ratings. On Halloween, he dressed up and showed a flurry of experiments that would keep anyone’s attention. For many years, he was televised on PBS for Christmas specials and other events to show how “Science Is Fun.” Thank you!
Brian Roeker ’00
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

In the fall of 1957, Dr. Dahl was a newly hired professor in the chemistry department and I had the pleasure of having him as my TA (I guess they wanted to break him in first). He was very thorough and explained things that we did not understand from Dr. Sorum’s lectures. I kept in contact with him and when it was time to leave the Air Force three years after I had graduated (went in as a lieutenant after ROTC) he helped and guided me into applying for admission to a master’s program in chemistry. I’m not sure how things would have turned out without his help.
Arthur Lorenz ’61, MS’67
Palos Verdes Estates, California

For myself, my most influential UW professor was unquestionably C. H. Sorum, professor of chemistry. Dr. Sorum was a great teacher of course, but more importantly a genuine inspiration and ultimately a good friend. He debunked completely the myth of being “just a number” at a large college, as his office door was always open for a discussion with anyone. Moreover, he taught thinking, deduction, and ultimately understanding. His annual holiday lecture/demonstration was frosting on the cake. Aside from my parents, no one influenced my life as much as this brilliant teacher and gold standard gentleman.
Jerry Zimmerman ’70, PhD’76, MD’79
Seattle, WA

It has to be Bassam Shakhashiri. Although I received my degree in accounting from the business school in 1978, I got to a point in my education where I felt I had learned plenty of debits and credits. Since my next 40 years working would likely be in the finance world, I wanted to experience something different. At the urging of my roommate, Jim Pettegrew ’77, I enrolled in Introduction to Chemistry taught by Dr. Shakhashiri. He not only taught us chemistry but he made it fun with lively experiments and real-life stories that have stuck with me to this day.
Howard Bornstein ’78
Park City, Utah

Physics

In response to your request for writing about the professor at the UW who had the most influence on me, I cannot answer since I have three or four professor who each had a profound influence on my life and career. In physics, professors Joseph Dillinger and Julian Mack stand out; in astronomy, professors Arthur Code and Albert Whitford. There were others in and beyond physics and astronomy, political science, music: Ray Dvorak, Harold McCarty of WHA, and others.
Don Liebenberg ’54, MS’56, PhD’71
Salem, South Carolina

Geology

Dr. Robert (Bob) Dott brought the rocks alive! His geology classes inspired an appreciation of the history of the earth (and early geologists) that still have me scanning road cuts and outcrops 50 years later. Bob’s field trips to Devil’s Lake were unforgettable.
Nancy Crossfield ’69, MA’70
Clovis, California

My favorite UW professor story comes from the second semester of my freshman year. I registered for the honors section of the History of Geology course taught by Professor Robert Dott. The honors section met weekly with the professor. Within a month or so, all the other honors students had dropped the course. Dr. Dott and I agreed to meet weekly for lunch. Where else than Madison could a freshman have a weekly lunch to discuss the class with its professor? My honors work was to write a paper about what the moon was made of. This was several years before Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon. Of course, Dr. Dott was very helpful in my research and writing.
George Affeldt ’68
Milwaukee, WI

Biology

As a freshman on campus and in the biocore curriculum, I felt like a very small fish in a very large pond. One of my TA’s for Cellular Biology, Barb Triplett, was a grad student working in Birge Hall for Professor Wayne Becker. I was looking for a part time job. Professor Becker and his staff took me in and made me feel like part of a special group in an otherwise vast university. I started out as a lab ware dishwasher and ended up assisting grad students with research in his plant biochemistry lab culminating with my senior independent studies thesis being done for Dr. Becker. I even stayed in Madison to work there one summer and ended up with a degree in biochemistry, likely in great part thanks to his support. He was also wise enough to not recommend me for grad school, and he was correct and everything has worked out fabulously. Thank you Dr. Becker!
Edward Glysson ’77
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Calculus

Thank you to Professor James E. Hall. Professor Jim Hall was my calculus professor for two semesters in 1980–81. His humor, ability to make the complex simple, and generosity with his time were invaluable to me. I am indebted to Jim for my professional success and the friendship we’ve maintained over the years.
Tom Carswell ’83
Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin