Friday, July 29, 2016

Bittersweet transitions: Thomas E. Gompf Chair in Chemistry

On July 14th, I received a phone call from my department Chair, Ken Karlin. He was excited to inform me that the Board of Trustees had just approved my appointment as the inaugural holder of the Thomas E. Gompf Chair in Chemistry. Elation! An endowed professorship is a promotion, and provides discretionary funds useful in pursuing new areas of investigation. It is also another sign of support from my department, my Chair, and my Dean showing that they want me to be part of the collective vision for advancing chemistry at Hopkins. But wait… who is Thomas E. Gompf? Will I have a chance to meet him, express my gratitude, share our passion for science, and generally be a good steward of his beneficence? No. He passed away on January 6th of this year. Sadness! Thus my transition into the Chair is bittersweet because the loss of Dr. Gompf is what made the Chair possible in the first place.

According to the obituary from the Jennings, Nulton, & Mattle Funeral Home in Penfield, NY, Thomas E. Gompf passed away at 90: "Predeceased by his loving wife of 63 years Elaine. He is survived by his son Robert E. (Leslie R.); 2 grandchildren, William "Liam"& Peter; sister, Betty Nordwall; special friend and caregiver Sarah Callahan and family. He retired from Eastman Kodak with over 10 patents to his name.”  The titles and subjects of his patents suggest that he was an organic or formulations chemist having developed innovations to make better photographs. Not surprising as he worked at Eastman Kodak.

That is all I know. But that is enough to know that I have big shoes to fill. The fact that the professorship he endowed is not restricted to his area of chemistry and open to theoretical and computational chemists such as myself speaks to the broadness of his thinking. I look forward to learning more about him, and hopefully also about his connection to Johns Hopkins. I also look forward to hearing about what he did #OutsideTheLab! (Feel free to e-mail me or post anecdotes or information if you have them!)

Credit: The picture is taken from the obituary.

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