John D. & Edith M. Roberts Inaugural Lecture

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Professor John Roberts was honored at the May 19th event for his many contributions to chemistry, and the establishment of the new Roberts Chair was announced.

Prof. Roberts, 97, attended the event at CNSI with family, close friends and former students & colleagues.

“John D. Roberts, “Jack” to the chemical community, is a triple Bruin! (A.B. ’41, Ph.D. ’44, and friend for life!)“ said Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry Professor Ken Houk. “He made major contributions to chemistry, and is responsible for stimulating the organic chemistry community in the use of 1H, 13C, and 15N nmr spectroscopy, as well as designing the first variable temperature probe. He has given tirelessly of himself for university administration at Caltech, and for the NSF and National Academy of Sciences, to which he was elected at age 38. His 12 books have influenced many generations of chemists. In honor of all these things and his endless friendship with UCLA, we have established the Roberts Chair in Chemistry that will support the research and teaching activities of new faculty members.”

After welcoming remarks by Chair and Professor Miguel Garcia-Garibay, Houk gave a lecture titled, “Jack Roberts and UCLA: The Scientific Impact of Physical Organic Chemistry”, followed by remarks from Marjorie Caserio, Chancellor Emerita, UC San Diego.  Caserio was a postdoc in Roberts’ lab in the 50’s and in the 60’s they co-wrote the popular textbook “Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry”. Houk and Caserio spearheaded the fundraising for the Roberts Chair.

The UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is raising $1 million in philanthropic gifts to establish the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry in honor of one of our most distinguished alumni. This is a unique opportunity to cement Jack Roberts’ extraordinary legacy at UCLA and to recognize his tremendous impact on the field of chemistry and on countless lives in the scientific community.

By providing a reliable, renewable source of funding for teaching and research activities, the Roberts Term Chair will enhance UCLA’s excellence in chemistry and help guarantee our position as a top choice for the best faculty. It is only fitting that his name should be aligned in perpetuity with the campus where he earned his degrees and where he was first inspired to pursue a career in chemistry. To learn more about Prof. Roberts, the Roberts Chair in Chemistry, and to learn how to become a supporter, please visit the Roberts Chair website.

Select photos from the event can be viewed below and the complete set can be viewed on the photo gallery.

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(Left) Before the lecture – Prof. Roberts (center) with his granddaughter Chelsea Roberts (a medical student at UCLA) and family friend UCLA alumna and former Gold Shield President Joanne Knopoff, whose late-husband was UCLA Professor of Physics and Geophysics Leon Knopoff.  (Right) Chair and Prof. Miguel Garcia-Garibay made the welcoming remarks.

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(From left) Houk spoke of Prof. Neil Garg’s work with Roberts.  Roberts, family and guests react to Houk’s remarks.

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Roberts is the author of several books including an autobiography “The Right Place at the Right Time” published in 1990. His popular text book “Notes on Molecular Orbital Calculations” was published in 1961.

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(From left) Caserio gave the closing remarks which were followed by remarks from Roberts from the audience.

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(From left) Garcia-Garibay, Caserio, Roberts & Houk at the reception following the lecture.

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(From left) Profs. Hosea Nelson (UCLA), Brian Stoltz (Caltech), Dennis Dougherty (Caltech), Neil Garg (UCLA).  Nelson and Garg received their Ph.D.s from Caltech under the direction of Stoltz – Garg in 2005 and Nelson in 2012.

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(From left) Prof. Bill Gelbart, Prof. Emer. Frank Anet, Dr. Jane Strouse (Director of the UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center), Prof. Mike Jung, and Prof. Yves Rubin. DSC 3679
Roberts (center) with granddaughter Chelsea and son Dr. John Paul Roberts (Professor, Department of Surgery, and Chief, Division of Transplantation, UC San Francisco). To learn more about the Roberts Chair in Chemistry and how to contribute, please visit the giving website.

Photos by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.