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stories - through Feb 2016

Patrick Hoggard and Larry Nathan

Patrick Hoggard and Larry Nathan

Patrick Hoggard Plans Phased Retirement

Over the next few years Dr. Patrick Hoggard, beloved teacher and colleague, will be gradually stepping away from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Santa Clara University in a planned phased retirement. During Pat’s phased retirement the department will be actively seeking a candidate to fill his shoes as the department’s Fletcher Jones chair holder. During his tenure at SCU, Dr. Hoggard has published 52 peer-reviewed articles and contributed over a million dollars in NSF grants for his research or for the department. At SCU he has mentored 65 undergraduates of which 45 were coauthors on papers – some undergraduates were authors on several papers. Dr. Hoggard organized the 16th International Symposium on the Photophysics and Photochemistry of Coordination Compounds, a 5-day event, in Pacific Grove, California. Pat mentored students, high school teachers and faculty during his time at SCU. His professional list of accomplishments is long and impressive. It is his everyday interactions and insight that will be most missed by his coworkers, and friends, in the department.

We invited Dr. Steven Suljak to share his feelings and insight into how valuable Dr. Hoggard is to the department: Pat was department chair when I was hired in 2004, and he was a major factor in my decision to come to Santa Clara University. He has been an invaluable mentor to me during my years at SCU, serving as an incredible model of teaching and scholarship with undergraduates. His kindness, generosity, and unwavering encouragement are infectious. It's hard to imagine what life in the department will be like as he begins his well-deserved phased retirement!

Over the years, Pat has become well known for things other than photochemistry research and teaching inorganic chemistry. His performances of the Element Song, accompanied by ukulele, have achieved legendary status. His wide array of Hawaiian attire, complete with wide-brim hat, is so impressive that my research group actually instated a "Dr. Hoggard Hawaiian Shirt Day" a couple of summers ago. And in one of my fondest memories of my first decade at SCU, Pat demonstrated his prowess at Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) while hosting the department research students one summer. Pat brings joy to everything he does, and it has been an honor to work with such a wonderful colleague at the start of my faculty career.

Pat Hoggard Reminisces

I arrived in the fall of 1995 as the inaugural Fletcher Jones chair holder at SCU. I had been at North Dakota State University for 14 years, where I was gradually becoming more and more unsatisfied with the large classes and lack of interaction with students. I had a thousand once, and the only room on campus big enough for that many students was the old wooden theater building. If I ever get a root canal, I’m sure it will be more fun that that was. Fortunately, they tore it down the next year, and thereafter classes could be no larger than 500! In short, I was missing all of the things that can make teaching so enjoyable. It was a real pleasure to begin at SCU, teaching classes in which I could learn everyone’s name, entertain questions throughout the period, and actually get to know students. Sometime before my first day in the classroom, Larry Nathan, the department chair, showed me the student evaluations of teaching for the chemistry department, displayed on his famous dot diagrams, which indicated the scores of individual faculty members on each question by means of dots, everyone remaining unidentified. It was a real shock. My new colleagues were getting stupendous, nearly perfect scores on every question. This was beyond my experience at NDSU, where high teaching evaluations were as rare as the snow thawing in winter, and carried the suspicion of having ignored one’s research.

The first course I taught at SCU was Chem 2, an introduction to chemistry for non-majors. I was quite nervous the first couple of weeks, wondering what I could possibly do to approach the teaching prowess of my chemistry colleagues. That was odd, because I had never been nervous in the classroom at NDSU, whether teaching 20 or 500. I did a midterm teaching evaluation and the students told me, essentially, to relax and chill out. I’ve worked hard at teaching since coming to SCU, and have put a lot of thought into how to maximize student learning. I’ve never approached the stratospheric teaching evaluations so many of the rest of the chemistry faculty regularly receive, but I’ve gotten close enough to be satisfied.

The Early Years

In 1999 the university developed the idea of turning the dormitories into Residential Learning Communities, and initially the RLCs were to foster community by having groups of students within an RLC take two thematically linked courses together. Faculty were exhorted to develop linked pairs of classes, and Bill Greenwalt (in Classics) and I did exactly that. I developed a new course, Chemistry in the Ancient World, and in the fall of 2000 (and the subsequent two years) we paired it with his History 11 course on the Greeks and Romans. We attended each other’s lectures and were pretty successful in making references to the other course in our own. Chemistry in the Ancient World even had a lab, where, for example, we smelted copper from an ore. Another experiment consisted of making soap starting with the incineration of leaves. It took a lot of leaves and hence there was a lot of smoke. We probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that experiment today. When I became chair I didn’t have the time to teach the course any longer. Then the paired course system was abandoned and, with the introduction of the new Core, our core course offerings dropped drastically, so I haven’t taught that course in over ten years.

The first year I was here, my research lab was Room 116, now used as GenChem prep room. The room has an area of around 60 square feet, but about half of that is bench space, so it can be pretty tricky moving around when there are two people. My first research student, the only one that year, was Heidi von der Mehden. Heidi made very good progress, but she graduated before the work had advanced far enough to consider writing up for publication. I’ve regretted not returning to her project, but my research emphasis began to change towards the catalyzed photodegradation of chlorinated hydrocarbons.

NSF REU Program

I was very happy that within a few months of my arrival the department managed to submit a proposal to the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. It was funded and we began right away in the summer of 1996. That summer I was able to move into my present quarters in DS 111, because a faculty member who had been on extended leave chose not to return. 

That was the first year of what turned out to be 12 summers sponsored by the NSF REU program, which I think helped to jump start our departmental research activities and solidify the expectation that we would be able to offer meaningful research opportunities to our majors within the department. In fact, we basically outgrew the REU program, in that complying with the REU mandate to bring in half the NSF summer students from outside began to seem undesirable when our own students were clamoring to do research with us.

SCU Sesquicentennial

In 2001 SCU celebrated its sesquicentennial with a yearlong series of special programs. I organized one of them, a two-day symposium on religious cults and pseudoscience, exploring how pseudoscience appropriates the language of faith and religion and how some religious cults make (mis)use of science. I had a surprisingly large budget and was able to invite some well-known experts: Eileen Barker (London School of Economics), an expert on new religious movements, J. Gordon Melton (Institute for the Study of American Religions), compiler of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, Eugenie Scott (director of the National Center for Science Education), an expert on the arguments used by creationists to justify their dogmas, James Randi (James Randi Educational Foundation), author of several books debunking paranormal claims, and Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic Magazine.

The five speakers, each hosted by an SCU faculty member, visited many classes. Each of them gave a campus-wide talk, and together they participated in a panel discussion that I moderated. The talks, in my opinion, were fascinating, so I’ll list them:

Michael Shermer – How We Believe: Pseudoscience and Transcendence in an Age of Science
Eileen Barker – And the Angel Said to the Ape, “Behold!” And the Ape Beheld
Eugenie Scott – Creationism Old and New
Gordon Melton – Science and the Search for Religious Authority
James Randi – Search for the Chimera

James Randi wound up speaking for over two hours about people who use magic tricks, but claim they are real, and on what an appropriately skeptical attitude to such claims should be. Himself a magician, a particular emphasis of his was on who must test extraordinary claims (Answer: not scientists; they aren’t competent when it comes to fraud). I hope our chemistry students paid attention during his discussion of homeopathy, using simple principles of chemistry to explain that most homeopathic preparations are just water. Randi also performed magic tricks in all the classes he visited. Phil Kesten, his host, said he did the same at meals.

Eugenie Scott was trailed by a film crew for an episode of Penn and Teller: BS on creationism that aired in 2003. The only part of the symposium I wasn’t happy with was the panel discussion, which rather rapidly got off topic and onto just plain atheism. I had begun with questions from a panel of three faculty members and my biggest regret is not injecting them back into the discussion when it derailed. Fortunately we had collected a lot of questions from the audience, so I stopped the panel earlier than I had planned and went to questions (I still remember one that asked whether there were psychic dentists).

Sabbatical Leaves

Sabbatical leave is a tremendous perk at Santa Clara. When I was on the University Research Committee in 1997 and 1998, we launched a proposal to increase the university financial contribution in order to make sabbaticals practical for everyone. This developed into the system we have today.

I had never had a sabbatical leave before I came to Santa Clara. In 2002 I took a two-quarter sabbatical and combined it with a summer in order to spend nine months at the University of Regensburg in Germany. Genie and I lived in the university guest house, which was smack in the middle of the cobblestone pedestrian area in the city center. Regensburg was the largest German city not to be bombed during the war, and the medieval core is exceptionally well preserved.

Serving as Chair of the Department

In July I got an email from Atom that started, “As you know [I didn’t], Pete Facione has accepted the position of provost of Loyola University Chicago and [I didn’t know this either] the president appointed me as acting dean.” He then went on to say that I had been chosen unanimously to be acting chair of the department. In fact that was all news to me, and with regard to becoming department chair, very bad news, because I needed to write two substantial proposals in order to keep my research program going, and I doubted I could do a satisfactory job while simultaneously learning to be, and actually being, department chair.

I had to say no, but Atom’s temporary deanship turned into permanent deanship and I succumbed to the inevitable the next year. During my three years as chair the high points I can recall are hiring Steve Suljak and Lourdes. I remember some not so high points too, like the sensitivity training the department was forced to undergo in 2003 in order to be allowed to hire lecturers. As chair, I came to understand the Peter Principle in full measure. I also learned that doctorscan be wrong when they tell you that you’ll have to be on Prilosec for the rest of your life. Just retiring from the chairmanship does wonders.

There was one aspect of being chair, however, that I really enjoyed, and that was the annual chairs’ retreat. Not the United States would be worth a look. Except California. California was too crowded, too smoggy, too expensive, and it had too much traffic. We had grown up in the L.A. suburbs and neither of us wanted to go back to the state. But Santa Clara was advertising and I decided to apply anyway. During my interview I liked the area a lot. It wasn’t smoggy like L.A., though it definitely was expensive. Then I found that I really liked the department and the people in it, including the staff. I called Genie the first night (which I ordinarily never did on interview trips). It was two hours later there, so I woke her from a sound sleep to tell her how attractive I was finding it and explain that we might have to reevaluate our opposition to California.

That evening, accompanied by a large fraction of the department, we went to dinner at the Los Gatos Brewery. Mike Sweeney was an especially voluble dinner companion, and I can still remember a discussion of films that somehow, don’t ask me how, seemed to concentrate on the Billy Wilder movie One, Two, Three. What attracted me to Santa Clara were my colleagues and they, along with the students, continue to be the main reason I like it here. Even if they do set the teaching bar too high to reach sometimes.

Editor’s note: Pat himself hit those high bars.

Thank you, Pat, for sharing your stories.

chemistry, featured, feature