Chemistry Professor William H. Miller selected as first recipient of distinguished professorship in honor of the late Kenneth S. Pitzer

By Jane Scheiber, Chemistry

BERKELEY --The first distinguished professorship in the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, has been established to honor Kenneth S. Pitzer, a UC Berkeley alumnus (Ph.D. '37) and longtime professor in the chemistry department who died in December 1997.

Professor William H. Miller has been selected to hold the first Pitzer Professorship. The new chair was formally approved by University of California President Richard C. Atkinson in late October.

Pitzer enjoyed a long career filled with exceptional distinction as a scientist, educator, administrator, public servant and philanthropist.

"The department is truly honored by the Pitzer Distinguished Chair, and pleased to have this standing tribute to a colleague who contributed so tremendously to what we - and the College - are today," said Paul Bartlett, chemistry department chairman. "We are all gratified that Bill Miller will be the first holder of the Chair, carrying on the tradition of excellent research, teaching and leadership in the university that Ken himself exemplified. However, I must confess that the large number of distinguished colleagues here made it a very difficult selection."

Miller noted that there are a number of distinguished persons in chemistry who deserve this type of recognition.

"I very much hope that the college will be able soon to obtain additional endowed chairs to make this possible for other deserving colleagues," he said.

Regarding his selection for the Pitzer Chair, he said, "Having gotten to know Ken Pitzer over the years and developing such a deep respect for his scientific contributions and personal integrity makes this an extra special honor. Pitzer is one of the few persons I have known that I would call 'wise.' Being associated with his name is thus not only extremely pleasing, but also quite humbling, given his enormous stature in chemistry."

The professorship was established to support research related to Pitzer's fields of theoretical and physical chemistry. Pitzer's research centered on the structure and properties of molecules, especially their thermodynamic behavior, and he was widely known early in his career for his analysis of internal rotation of groups within molecules. In later years he was noted for his studies of relativistic effects in chemical bonding and for his advances in the study of electrolyte solutions. Miller's research in theoretical chemistry focuses on understanding dynamic chemical phenomena and chemical reaction dynamics.

Miller received his B.S. from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1963, and from Harvard University received his A.M. in 1964 and Ph.D. in 1967. He came to the college's faculty in 1969, and was chairman of the Department of Chemistry from 1989 until 1993.

His many honors and awards include the Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry, the Langmuir Award and the Award for Theoretical Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, the Spiers Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), and a Guggenheim fellowship. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He has served on editorial boards of many journals, and on many academic and government committees.

While still a faculty member Pitzer had established a fund providing unrestricted monies for the college, with the intent to eventually create an endowed chair to support research. Memorial contributions were later added to this fund, and a very sizable donation from Pitzer's family fully funded the professorship.

The endowment for a distinguished professorship requires a minimum of $1 million. Income from the endowment provides additional funding resources to enhance research, for example to purchase research equipment, fund laboratory modernization and provide graduate student support.

"In establishing the Kenneth S. Pitzer Distinguished Professorship, the Pitzer family wishes to recognize his long and warmly felt association with the University of California, Berkeley," said Pitzer's son Russell, himself a chemistry professor at Ohio State University, speaking on behalf of the Pitzer family. "We thank all of his colleagues and friends for their contributions to this professorship. My father felt that the brilliance and support of his colleagues, the ability and enthusiasm of the students, and the quality of the facilities made it a wonderful place to be a professor of chemistry. While he spent 10 years away from Berkeley, he was delighted to have the opportunity to return for the rest of his career."

Pitzer received his Ph.D. in 1937, and immediately afterward joined the chemistry faculty. He served as Dean of the College of Chemistry from 1951 to 1960. While he spent most of his career at UC Berkeley, his management talents led him to other institutions. During World War II, Pitzer served his country as Technical Director of the Maryland Research Laboratory, and from 1949 to 1951 was Director of Research for the Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1961, he left to become president of Rice University. There, he successfully integrated the school and instituted tuition for the first time. Pitzer served in 1968 for a short term as president of Stanford University, returning to UC Berkeley in 1971 to resume his faculty position.

He remained active in research long after becoming professor emeritus in 1984. Hundreds of undergraduates and many dozens of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows were fortunate to learn from him.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was recognized with many awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Priestley Medal of the American Chemical Society, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists, and the Robert A. Welch Award. He was a life trustee of Pitzer College, which he helped his father found, and he was honored at UC Berkeley with election as Alumnus of the Year, the Clark Kerr Medal, the Berkeley Citation and the naming of Pitzer Auditorium in Latimer Hall.

This server has been established by the University of California at Berkeley Public Information Office. Copyright for all items on this server held by The Regents of the University of California. Thanks for your interest in UC Berkeley.
More Press Releases | More Campus News and Events | UC Berkeley Home Page


Send comments to: