John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry

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To honor Jack Roberts, we have established the John Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry, for which we are currently fundraising.

It is our goal to honor and perpetuate Jack Roberts’ legacy at UCLA and his extraordinary career at Caltech. This Chair recognizes the tremendous impact that he and his group had on the field and on countless lives in the scientific community. His name will be connected in perpetuity with the campus where he earned his degrees and where he was first inspired to pursue a career in chemistry.

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John D. (“Jack”) Roberts has been one of the most influential chemists of the last 75 years, and it all started at UCLA! He received the BA degree in 1941 and the PhD in 1944 (with William G. Young as research advisor); he continued at UCLA as an Instructor, 1944-45, until moving to Harvard on a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Bartlett. Jack has had a long career at Caltech, not only doing great research and leading the organic chemical world into the use of quantum theory, NMR, and isotope effects to explore organic reaction mechanisms, but also attracting some of the best students and postdocs to Caltech to work with him. He also served Caltech in a variety of leadership roles that had a great impact on that University and on the chemical world as well. Throughout, he remained a great friend and collaborator to UCLA. He has been honored by UCLA with the UCLA Alumni Achievement Award in 1967 and the Seaborg Medal from UCLA in 1991.

CaserioSadly, Jack passed away on October 29, 2016. He was 98, but he was still mentally strong, as we will always remember him. There will be a memorial tribute honoring his remarkable accomplishments through his life. No date has been determined yet. However, an important event will take place at Caltech on June 7, 2017, which will feature the Caltech Roberts Lecture given by Ken Houk, Winstein Professor of Chemistry at UCLA. This talk will pay tribute to Roberts’ many contributions to Organic Chemistry as an educator and researcher, and describe research building on Jack’s discoveries. Photo right: Marjorie Caserio, Jack Roberts, and Ken Houk.

The signature event announcing the fund-raising effort for the Roberts Chair was held in conjunction with the inaugural lecture for the new biennial lectureship at UCLA chemistry department known as The Roberts Lecture on May 19, 2016. The aim was to keep Jack’s contributions to chemistry alive in the minds of faculty and students, now and in the future. Ken was also the founding speaker on this occasion and fittingly spoke about Jack’s work over the years and its impact on the chemical sciences. Jack was present at this event and was duly celebrated. It is fair to say that his appreciation for the widespread recognition was deeply sincere. Marjorie Caserio, Chancellor Emerita of UC San Diego and former member of the Roberts group at Caltech, also spoke about the Roberts group and Jack’s influence on so many chemists. We are pleased to tell you that the occasion heralded the announcement that the UCLA department has pledged $500,000 towards the endowment as a match for an equal amount pledged by other donors. Based on the funds already raised, the endowment needs approximately $375,000 to reach the one million mark. We are hopeful to reach this goal within the next few months. We see this as feasible with a renewed effort to seek donations, however large or small.

We seek $1 million in philanthropic gifts to establish the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry. Help us add this crowning honor to Jack’s legacy – click here to contribute.

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