UCLA alumnus & accomplished scientist James Ellis LuValle (BA chemistry ’36, MA chemistry & physics ’37) won a bronze medal in the 1936 Olympic Games.
A Phi Beta Kappa in chemistry, LuValle paid his way through school with a Regents’ scholarship and a job in a chemistry lab. He made friends with future Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg who was his teaching assistant for one class. When he graduated in 1936, he was recognized with the Jake Gimball Award for being the outstanding all-round senior.
He went on to the California Institute of Technology where he earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry under chemistry pioneer Linus Pauling. After the Olympics, LuValle returned to UCLA as a masters student. During that time, he founded what is now the UCLA Graduate Students Association. In 1985, ASUCLA named its north campus student center LuValle Commons in his honor. LuValle is pictured (right) at the naming ceremony.
LuValle later did research at Fairchild Camera and Instrument, and at Smith-Corona Merchant Labs. At the end of his professional life, LuValle worked as director of undergraduate chemistry labs at Stanford University. He died January 30, 1993 while on vacation in New Zealand.
LuValle was recently profiled by organometallic chemist, writer and editor Dr. Sibrina Collins in the new online science magazine, Undark.
Photos courtesy of UCLA: Dr. LuValle at the podium around 1985 when the naming of Lu Valle Commons was announced, 1935 yearbook pages.