Transcript of David Willis, General Science Department Head 1969 – 1985
Lyn – I am here with Dave Willis, in McMinnville, Or., On August 20th, 2009. I will start out by asking you when and how you came to Oregon State University.
Dave – It is a fairly long story part of it is covered by this item I just gave you. I was teaching in a college in Southern California. Teaching Biology, I was fascinated with radioactivity aspects of biology. This was early in the time when radioactivity was being used in research in biology. As I indicated to you a little earlier my wife had had Polio in 1955 we had three children. I had a master’s degree but wanted to go on for a PhD, but under those circumstances it was almost impossible. As a consequence I was taking summer courses at summer institutes and looking into the possibility of a doctoral program although it seemed not feasible, an ill wife and 3 children. I contacted people at UCLA, USC, you name it, looking into the possibility of a doctoral program that would emphasize the uses of radioactive tracers in biology. No one was interested plus there was no support for that. The summer of 1959 I came to a summer institute at OSU it was OSC at that time, Oregon State College. It was for college biology teachers sponsored by National Science Foundation. In that program there was a section on biochemistry, and the teacher invited in Dr. Chih Wang from Chemistry department to give a series of lectures. Dr. Wang had only been in the US a little over a decade, his English was very poor let’s put it that way. Fortunately I had training in linguistics and could pick it up quit well. Most people were totally blown away by it, because he was very rapid speech, he tended to jump in his ideas, and not have a consistent flow, plus he was so technical that most people were not prepared for this. As a consequence of hearing a couple of lectures, I said this is what I am interested in. So I approached him after hours in his office. I said “would you be willing to give some special lectures if I could drum up some interest amongst these 40 -50 faculty members.” Oh yes because he was enthusiastic about the application of radioactive tracers. So he arranged, after 5:00 from 5:00 to 5:30, he gave us a series of lectures there was only about 5 people, who showed any interest, and some of them dropped out because his English was very poor, very broken and his presentation was choppy. But I was eating it up. This was just what I wanted. I then approached him and I said I am interested in doing a thesis that would be eventually be made into a text book in this field, showing the application of radioactive tracers in biology. He was teaching a course called radioactive tracer method, Chemistry 419 which was helping people in Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Biology to use these chemical techniques that they didn’t know anything about. As a consequence he was struggling, trying to explain these things to these people and they were struggling to understand it. But it was an excellent course. So he said yes I would love to do because I feel the need of a text book that is understandable and readable there were very few textbooks I n the field. As a consequence he said I don’t have any support for you because that’s not the kind of thing research grants usually support. But if you can get your support I would be happy to take you on as a student. He understood our family situation. So the next summer I was at a summer institute at the University of Washington of Seattle which was in Radiation biology again. I learned of a program that the National Science Foundation had which was Science Faculty Fellowships for College teachers who wanted to enhance their backgrounds or get a PhD whatever, a very competitive program. So that year then I applied for it and to my great happiness December 1960 to be awarded a 15 month fellowship to come to OSU then and work with him to develop a thesis which would be a text book eventually. On the table before you there the top volume is what eventually came out. I came in June 1961 and immediately got to work on this. I had accumulated a fair amount of graduate credits already from various schools in Southern California. Took an intensive program during the year and started developing this, worked with him day after day. To my surprise in the middle of the year I was offered a faculty position the next year, because I had been teaching general biology in California, using the same text book they were using at OSU. I had been working on developing a laboratory manual to go with it and OSU didn’t have a good laboratory manual for that. And there had been the beginnings of a program in radiation biology at OSU, one faculty member had been involved in it. There was no program as such. This was in the general science department which no longer exists, it went out of existence in ‘92. The program and they wanted to develop and it fit in this interdisciplinary department it didn’t fit anywhere else it was biology chemistry physics so I was brought in to develop the program on one hand and work in general biology on the other. Dr. Wang and I worked on this thesis over a two-year period and finished the program in the spring of 1963. He then immediately set out to take my 608 page dissertation went to work and submit it for publication to various textbook publishers. After a little bit of finagling we finally signed a contract with Prentice-Hall to publish this in fit with several other books they had. We worked for two more years it was finished in the summer of 1965. We worked intensely over those years together. By that time they were trying to develop a radiation biology graduate program and have an undergraduate senior course. At that time then I was the key person in this. In the late 60s would began hiring specific faculty just for this program and at the height of this program in the early 70s we had three full-time faculty members plus myself. By that time I was department chairman so I was heavily involved in administrative duties but was teaching as well. The textbook did very well in fact it dominated the field for quarter of a century. The publishers got after us “won’t you revise this” so the second book on the list there was published in 1975. By that time a great deal of development had taken place in the electronics area and we brought in Dr. Walter Loveland, chemistry, who was up-to-date on this sort of thing. We revised it actually it was almost totally rewritten, but a heavy revision, and change of title and that continued on I think it was in print for 18 years or so. That’s how I came to OSU, a long answer to your brief question.
Lynn- very interesting so then, you were a department chairman of general science?
Dave – General science from 1969 to 1985.
Lyn – you mentioned a little in this guess is that eulogy almost to Dr. Wang and I heard this from other people that the kind of collaboration that was going on there between chemists, physicists and engineers was pretty unique
Dave – very unique
Lyn – how do you think that came about?
Dave – let me go back in Dr. Wong situation so you probably have some of his history. He has a master’s from the University in China. In their during the war with Japan and suffered considerably was married have at least one child a son and right after the end of World War II he found the opportunity to come to Oregon State for a doctoral program his wife was also a professional person she came along but because of unsettledness of China at that time it was slightly before the Communist takeover but there was the four or five year period when the nation was in chaos, they had to leave their son behind with his parents and they came then I’m getting this all second or third hand not from him directly fairly clear. They came over and he then worked very hard finished his doctorate in the late 40s may be 1950 and show himself to be a genius anyways. Despite his language problem, because he had very poor English even to the end, despite his language problem he had a unique way of bonding with other people. Very soon he and Popovich were close friends, fishing buddies. Dean Gleason in engineering also was involved with us. Chih had a vision he was a visionary man really. This was very early in radioactivity era in colleges. He saw the applications, he was basically an organic chemist and then he gradually moved into biochemistry, in fact that’s unique about his life he made these increasingly diverse transitions. He began to see that there was a need for training other people especially biologists and applied biology in the use of radioactive tracers and in radiation in general. He and Dean Gleason in engineering were very close by the late 50s he began to see there was a need for OSU to have something in this field because, it was the science technology university for the state. He had a way of pulling money out of rocks, it was incredible. He hardly ever had anything turned down. He began to develop this network of federal grant agencies that went on throughout his whole life. He can be very persuasive, but also he was visionary, and as a consequence he realized that OSU needed a reactor, well they finally got a 10 Watt training reactor which was miniscule. It was installed in engineering and when I first visited in 1959 he took great pride he took me into the basement of the electrical engineering building showed me this dinky reactor but he was very proud of it he and Gleason worked together on this Popovich and being Dean of administration helped financially. He just developed a network of people and as a consequence was able to develop relationships across campus in a way you probably wouldn’t see now campus being so much larger you’re talking about five or 6000 students. He had this vision for developing a coordinated program in the radiation sciences interestingly enough the physics department showed no interest you would think they would be primary they weren’t and as a consequence he said goodbye to them the six department has never been involved in radiation center strangely enough. They have programs in nuclear physics but the applications thereof no. By 1959 he was working out with Dean Gleason this nuclear engineering option in mechanical engineering as I recall so that mechanical engineers could work with the reactor and get some experience but it was a dinky reactor to say the least. He then began to see that it was necessary to develop a coordinated center where all the radiation and radioactivity programs could be centered for safety’s samples by the way he became the radiation safety officer for the University they had no such he was the head of the radiation safety office for years I succeeded him decades later he finally hired a radiation safety officer to do the day-to-day work, John Prince, who was a colleague of mine. He saw the need for getting things together in one place. That was a time when OSU was building buildings at a rapid pace. You can see many of them came from the same period late 50s early 60s. So this idea of a radiation center took hold and he worked for probably five or six years to bring it fruition he got many here he got many there he got approval here it was a fascinating process to watch and it consumed him really for quite awhile. One thing was to get a building built the other was to staff it with people. He had this outreach across campus to bring in for his people chemistry in particular since he was in the chemistry department at such. he enlisted people in chemistry to come there and basically had to hire new faculty so in the mid-60, ’65, ’66, ‘64 he was bringing people in anyone doing research in radioactivity or radiation he pulled the man and as you know the building at first was the low rise section there was no reactor in back he allocated space for chemistry biology and for engineering this went on until he saw that to have a thorough going nuclear engineering program you needed a good reactor a training reactor and so the TRIGA was finally built in 1966 as I recall. And that needed a whole cadbury of people that would support the activity of the reactor.
Lyn – let me ask you.
As I warned you I can go on and on
Well I’m just interested do you think it was I mean he had obviously attracted very skilled people from many disciplines was it his enthusiasm that attracted them was at his genius?
It’s really hard to say why and how he attracted all these people you would have to ask many of them what brought them to OSU. He had wide contacts across the country by this time and he was active in American nuclear Society. Particularly he had contacts University of California and Berkeley radiation lab but more than anything he offered a unique experience and he offered a chance to grow up with something. Haynes enthusiasm was contagious even though was so broken par example and people used to behind his back joked about his accent but they loved him. He had a unique ability to, more than any man I’ve ever seen, to bring disparate people together and weld them together in a harmonious team. As I mentioned in that article I gave you most faculty groups were faction ridden and not to harmonious. he had the ability to make everyone worked together and like it. It was really unique I look back and I tried to emulate it in our department, not entirely successfully. He had that ability that personal ability and he saw that that was the way to success for the organization and for the individual. So the interaction between individuals at the radiation center has been phenomenal for years. It was a club of friends you might say very unique. He had unique personal abilities one to get people to work together to recruit them but also to pick people who were winners I can’t recall any of the people he hired who had to be let go or who fumbled the ball and didn’t come through. He motivated and encourage them in a unique way. He could be an autocrat too.
Lyn – In 1967 the Radiation Center was officially dedicated. Were you at that dedication?
Dave – to the best of my recollection I was but I have no strong memories of that frankly there were so many things happening there.
Lyn – I did discover that Governor Tom McCall attended he don’t recall him attending?
Dave – Well I vaguely recall it. Again Chih Wang had the ability to reach out and touch people he was politically sensitive he was doing something that put Oregon on the map there was no such radiation center in the country
Lyn – Really?
Dave –No, this is a unique facility. I think if you have developed sense but she had this concept and followed it through like no one else it set an example in the nation
Lyn -Do you recall the construction of the TRIGA reactor?
Dave – oh yes that went on for a long while and people were amazed by the amount of concrete poured into the building. it was really a delight to see it go up, but that was a real coup for him because TRIGA reactor were top-of-the-line for research reactors the atomic energy commission was doling out money to have them built but it was highly competitive there were I think only, some of the others can tell you, there were only eight or 10 in the country at that time. He put his hand in there and was given one again because of his persistent, his enthusiasm and he had the structure where it was the obvious next addition. Again he hired a marvelous crew for that people who were reactor operators Terry Anderson Art Johnson came on as radiation safety officer and then a whole other group of people many who were dependent upon the reactor for their research.
Lyn – I also read that OSU is one of the few universities hoping to build to get money to build a TRIGA reactor who had support from many different departments in the application for this money so that was one of the things that swayed them.
Dave – He had a unique ability to pull people together pull ideas together and yet if you never met the man his English again was very poor when we were doing the second book Walt Loveland if you’re familiar with most Japanese and Chinese have trouble with the l’ and r’s. So if you have trouble with your ls and rs what would you call Walt…Wart?
Lyn – Wart
Dave -Walt and I would sit across the desk from Chih wart this, wart that, we were chuckling to ourselves he couldn’t hear the difference of course.
Lyn – Right. Did you actually have an office in the radiation center?
Dave – I never had an office as such several of my faculty members had an offices there Dr. Don Kimball Dorff was there from 68 to time he retired in the early 80s. Stewart Knockway was there ballot was there I did research there but I didn’t have an office as such.
Lyn – Do you recall some of the research you were working on then?
Dave – I’m sorry
Lyn – do you recall the research and you were working on there?
When I was working on? Early on I worked with Frank Conti who was working in my department zoology. Frank was studying the ability of steelhead to migrate from freshwater to salt water and to transition their ability to handle the increasing salinity. And he was searching for the glands or the cells in the animals that would adapt to salt water conditions and I worked with him one summer. And then my last research project in the 80s dealt with a project for the Environmental Protection Agency they were concerned with the possible toxicity of natural uranium in drinking water, not radioactivity but the chemical toxicity. So we worked with the reactor they are intensively for about four years we developed a technique to measure very, very low levels of uranium in tissue and drinking water that hadn’t been done before. That’s a long story I won’t go into it that was major use I had on the reactor. I was on the reactor operating committee for years, I was radiation safety committee for years and chairman of that so I was involved always with the radiation center. After I formally retired but that’s another story let’s come to the health physics program. General science department had the radiation biology program, and in the early 60s about 63 may be 62, 63 they were approached by a gentleman from General Electric Corp. x-ray division to develop an x-ray science program science and engineering program this man Dr. Dale Trout maybe you have come on that name. Dale Trout he was the expert on x-ray machines particularly for medical is also industrial with a hit in his career and General Electric is now 60 years of age and the US Bureau of radiological health approached him and said “Dale x-ray training simply doesn’t exist in the country anymore all the physics departments that used to have x-ray before World War II have now turned to nuclear field and have dropped the x-ray. We can’t find training programs for PO and radiological health that we need to do what the federal agency does we will find you totally you choose where you want to go we will pay the whole cost of developing the program, grants for students if you will do the job and knew he could. Well Dale Trout was that Dean in that field he knew it all. She was of course in Wisconsin where their headquarters are but he loved to fish. He had a fishing cabin on Vancouver Island and Canada and come out each for his vacation to fish. so he thought what better place than the Northwest. He first approached University of Washington since they had programs in radiation, they weren’t interested. So for some reason he contacted OSU got a hold of Chih Wang and the others and they said sure why not. The radiation center was coming into being and so they said fine will allow you to space and as you know there’s several x-ray machines there now. So somewhere around 63 or 64 trout moved in as soon as the facility opened and set up a marvelous program in x-ray science and engineering. That lasted two decades or a little more than two decades. Then a real serious problem developed I never saw anyone that Chih Wang couldn’t get along with but Dale Trout came from the industrial hierarchy. He arrived with his big black Lincoln Continental and the first thing he asked for was a dedicated parking spot with his name on it. Well OSU didn’t do that then, maybe it does now I don’t think even the president had a parking spot. This ruffled some feathers and it started a downward trend of Dale Trout being an organization man from big industry and Chi being a freewheeling granting getter and before long we were at each other like loggerheads Dale Trout accused him of misusing funds it was sad. two wonderful men that were both, I felt, close friends because Dale Trout was in my department eventually they had a breakdown in Chih said you can’t be in the radiation center you have to go somewhere else. So he took over in the basement and the first floor of Waldo Hall. Waldo Hall being the oldest building on campus a wreck in fact the top floor is an inhabitable. Dale Stout spent thousands revamping that getting in x-ray machines by the dozens, developing a wonderful training program, again and General science he had radiological physics, he had radiological health as well graduate programs taught undergraduate courses. Developed an outstanding program actually Dale when he reached age 75 decided it was time to retire again. And so he did and his associate director John Kelly continued the program for some years. The problem is one man couldn’t run the whole program and we realized that there was a real need nationally in health physics radiological health we called it a radiation health. Art Johnson who was teaching a course in my department although in the rad center, and I put together our heads and put together a mish mash of courses together to make an undergraduate program in radiation health and we already had a graduate program available. When I formally retired in 1987, we realized there was no one to continue that, and so working with Art and we transferred it to NE. They took the program and then adapted it to nuclear engineering more and made it a more broader program. The radiation health physics that exist there started in General science in the early 80’s.
Interesting I didn’t know that
there’s a lot of background here as I said I can go on
it is a new in a war is is cool and his wife will be a little as he or it’s great can you remember the craziest or most unusual thing that ever happened at the radiation center?
Dave – You know I’ve seen your question and I thought and thought I really can’t think I think the people who are actually on site might have memories of that I can’t really remember any craziness it was all business, all organized, I can’t say that I remember any craziness. Sorry
Lyn – How did the community feel about the TRIGA reactor being built there?
Dave – Chih was very wise in this regard he realized with the rising anti nuclear feeling in the country that there could be opposition. He had open houses he brought in community leaders to show them the reactor and explain carefully but it didn’t explode it was a different kind of reactor was not a power reactor. He took great measures in PR, personally. He would lead these he had wide contacts in the community. He was quite respected. Key I think defused any comments. At the Heights of some of the compliance about 1970 there were a few protesters that began that picketed they were students who are not knowledgeable about what was going on but had to pick at something he went out and met with them as I recall he was very accommodating so I never recall any problems there. In 1970 when the Trojan reactor plant was to be built on the lower Columbia River. I remember vividly recall me to the office once and said I want you to meet someone from Portland General Electric. Well I said what was the problem. He said while they’re building a huge power reactor and they’re getting a lot of public opposition he said they need someone to do some reporting on environmental consequences of a radioactivity release while that is the field I developed radio ecology it’s called I was teaching a course in that and he said which you help them with their environmental impact statement with regard to radioactive releases and the consequences of that. I vividly remember the PGE manager was there and I said well if you’ve got all the static from people you must have tremendous releases I said could I see in your list of anticipated radioactive releases into the Columbia River. He showed me the list I said I can’t believe it you don’t have a problem oh yes we do public perception so I spent the next two years writing reports attending meetings trying to diffuse public concern rewrote their environmental impact statement with regards to environmental releases it was my introduction to public controversy a sad introduction because I was used to dealing with students who might not always be awake but at least they didn’t contest what you were saying. And here you getting people who would come to meeting after meeting asking the same question and he didn’t try to patiently to explained what was going on and they come back next meeting and asked the same question I was a little slow and finally I realized they were making points they were not wanting answers that was a sad story but it made me appreciate how he had defused any potential problems with regard to the TRIGA reactor to my knowledge it never was a local problem. I think there were a few letters to the editors that were quickly answered. The John Ringle particularly has done a good job writing letters to the editors and to columns and so on trying to bring some rationale into this subject which is difficult for him.
To try to get some facts and figures to diffuse, for example one of the things people were concerned about the release radioactive iodine into the Columbia River. Because people were aware of radioactive iodine and thyroid problems. Well this student, I sent him up to Portland. He checked and some of the major hospitals in Portland where they were giving radioactive Iodine for thyroid test or thyroid treatments and then a person was voiding the excess radioiodine through the urine into the public sewer system. We made some quick calculations and only one of the hospitals in Portland, just one of the hospitals was releasing more radioactivity more radioactive iodine isotopes into the sewage and into the Columbia river than Trojan was. And of course there were five or six centers doing this. So we tried to set this in perspective it didn’t affect the anti nukes one bit it al just it’s Radioactivity it’s dangerous. Very discouraging.
Lyn – Can you talk about some of the most interesting people you worked with in your career at OSU?
David – In NE and Radiation Center or over all?
Lynn – Or overall
David – I think the thing that impressed me coming from Southern California to OSU was the dedication of many of the older faculty members who unlike some of the later faculty were dedicated to the institution. They weren’t trying to build an empire and then move to a higher position somewhere else. They were dedicated to OSU. And that was, I think a very positive thing. And I think of people like Roy Young even though Roy did go somewhere else temporarily he was really a, I guess the term, Beaver believer is appropriate now although it was the athletics in that sense. Many of the department chairmen had come up through the ranks. In the late 60’s OSU began to change that and bring in people from outside new deans from the east. One dean came in once and he announced to the faculty of the college of Science that I am here to make OSU the Harvard of the West. We all said oh no. He didn’t understand that we were underfunded and a shoestring operation anyways. Many of the science people came in and were very upset that they were in an agricultural institution. They were pure scientist and the agricultural people got their hands dirty. It was an elitism that really turned me off. We saw more of that coming.
David Nichodemus who was a Dean for many years was in Physics when I came he had a reputation even then for being an outstanding teacher. A gentleman, a very good gentleman. He was active in the honors program which I was too early on. He was revered even as a fairly young faculty member. He later went on into administration. A man I always felt close to because of his fairness and his again concern for the institution and the students. Dean Popovich again handled things so smoothly you didn’t know there were financial problems, he finessed them so well. Hugh Jefferies was a personal friend. Fact is his children are my children’s associates. He was business manager for years. He and Poppy worked together often I would see them on flights to the east where they were trying to elicit money from the federal agencies. Across the board, some excellent people.
Lyn – What would you say was your greatest accomplishment in your career at OSU?
David – That is a question other people would have to answer. Laugh. I tried to keep things together. We had problems. The general science department was a badly misunderstood department, because it was not a disciplinary department. Many of our deans said, if you are not a chemist, not a biologist, not a physicist, a mathematician what are you? It so happened that the general science department had been formulated in 1932 when the state system separated disciplines. It was set up specifically because there were niche areas or disciplinary that didn’t fit disciplines. So we’d been curing over the years. I came in, in ’61, there were diverse areas. Chairman at that time Dr. Don Humphrey was fascinated with the history of science, history department wasn’t interested so he developed a program in history of science that continued to the very end. Eventually one of them that I hired Dr. Paul Farber, who succeeded me as chairman, at my request. Switched over to become chairman of the history department and did a great job. He was an excellent scholar. But the department taught courses in the general biology for non science majors, Physical science for non science majors, which, was looked down upon by many of the disciplinary people. These are beneath us we want to teach majors. Well it is important to teach those who are going to be public teachers or home economists and so on. We thought that was an important role. And then we have the specialized programs the radiation sciences, history of sciences and so on. Actually Oceanography had started in the general science department. One man
Lyn – Did it?
David – Where else would you put it you see? Geography had started and later budded off. It was a nursery bed for many interdisciplinary programs. We had some deans in the 70’s particularly who didn’t appreciate this and felt that it was not a reliable program. I spent much of my time as chairman fighting off predatory deans, who were going to scatter us to the three winds and disband the department. The irony is that the one dean, Dean Horn, in the 90’s who came to appreciate the department. I was gone by then. He was the one who had to disband the department in 1992 because of cutbacks, when many departments were cut. He was one dean that appreciated what we were doing. Dean Cheldelin did in the early 60s too. He felt he saw the need for such an interdisiplinary department and supported it strongly, but many of the others did not. So I guess one of my accomplishments was keeping the department together in very difficult times. And, trying to develop programs that were suitable. Radiation Biology was my own personal interest and so we had 3 other staff members came in on that. And we cooperated with people of interest in Oceanography. There was a team in Oceanography back in the 60’s and early 70’s under Dr. Charlie Ostroburg. That was concerned with the use of radioactive tracers to study oceanography. You might say, how would you do that. They discovered or realized that the Hanford plant in Washington pouring out fair amount of activity in the river, actually considerable amounts. That came down the river and spewed out in the Pacific. And they said This is a natural radio tracer we don’t have to add anything it there. So Charlie and his team, he had a wonderful team, 4 or 5 people, and they used the presence of radioactivity in seawater to trace where the plume of the Columbia River went. No one had been able to do this before. It was huge fresh water coming out into the ocean where does it go obviously mixes but how does it mix and where. They were able to develop very sensitive measures for radioactivity in the ocean. They were able to trace that in the summer the plume was diverted southward they were able to trace it as far as the California border by that time, it got to dilute. And in the winter winds drove the plume north, and if you know the southern Washington coast. Willapa Bay, a huge bay, with oyster production. It drove it north and into the bay. Which created a great deal of consternations, because zinc65 was one of the nuclides in the water and that was avidly taken up by the oysters. When the announcement were made about this, it almost killed the oyster industry temporarily because people “radioactivity in my oysters”. So they tried to show how dilute this was, yes, they could measure it but only in trace, trace, trace amounts. But they did wonderful work and then Charlie moved off. He was asked to come to Atomic Energy Commission Department of Energy Washington DC and moved his program there. So that was a very good program we lost. Hope I am not repeating myself.
Lyn – Not at all
David – It’s a very good story
Lyn – I could listen to you all day.
David – I might talk about some of the people in the Radiation Nuclear Engineering Radiation Center and I am sure you have come upon this. (shows her a paper)
Lyn – I haven’t seen this
David – You need to get a copy of this. It was in a booklet that OSU put out with each department having a page or so and I would judge from the dates that it’s probably the mid 70’s, because it lists Steve Binney coming in 1973. That gives a capsule of each of the early people in the departments
Lyn – Could I make a copy of this and send it back to you?
David – You certainly may
Lyn – That would be great
David – I tore it out of the book. But there’s a book it should be in the archives, Because it was presenting virtually all the departments at OSU at the time. You want to read those details about the people. Let me take a look at that and I’ll talk about some of the people. It talks about Chih Wang here and I could say more about him. It talks about Bernie Spinrad. That name, have you come across it?
Lyn – I haven’t
David – Chih Wang was so involved that he realized he could not be director of the Radiation Center and also Department Chairman of the Nuclear Engineering. Now granted he started Organic Chemistry, Bio Chemistry Nuclear Engineering Radiation Center, and So Bernie Spinrad was a specialist in Nuclear Engineer at Argonne Laboratory. Chih had his network out all over the country picking out people. He got Bernie Spinrad to come to direct the Nuclear Engineering program. He gave prestige to it to the outside. He was only there a few years. I forget why he moved on but, I think he was offered something else. But he was fairly effective at getting Nuclear Engineering really a going program. John Ringle you’ve certainly seen and talked with. John was a key person early on and later became the associate graduate dean or Dean of the graduate school. John was a strong person. Alan Robinson I believe has died.
Lyn – No he is still around
Dave – Ok. Alan also headed up the NE program for a while. He had a unique program in Neutron radiography in fact you have probably seen these pictures. The reactor and this entire array here is Alan’s activity. He was using Neutrons in lieu of X-rays or others. And there’s what called Neutron radiography. He was a specialist in that and really made a name for himself there but he had to have this huge array adjacent to the reactor and a port built so that the neutron could come from the core directly out to his area. He did fascinating things. He could photograph bullets being shot from a gun and impinged on a target with neutrons as the imaging device. Fascinating. Alan was a little controversial. I think some people thought he was a little autocratic. I think he did a good job. Art Johnson you have certainly met with.
Lyn – Great guy
David – Art is first rate He was a lot of the glue that kept things together there. He had a great sense of humor. Art had a way with people, got along with everyone. He taught in my department for many years, of course Radiation Health which developed into a program. Art had an enthusiasm which was contagious Students loved him. And he did a great job to as radiation Safety officer. Carl Hornic you probably haven’t heard much about. He died in a bicycle accident I think. He was a Dutchman although educated in Germany. He lived up near us. You would see him riding his bicycle down 29th street with no hands holding his briefcase behind him. I think he died of a heart attack as I recall a fairly young man. But he was a very popular researcher. Steve Binney you have met with I am sure Steve came on a little later 1973 I think. He did a very good job. Some of the other people in Nuclear Engineering and such I didn’t have much contact with. Jose was the real star. I believe he is the chairman now isn’t he.
Lyn – Well he has taken a leave of absence as Department head because he is so busy with NuScale Power
David – I can believe it
Lyn – Yeah, You have heard about NuScale
David – He has done wonders there. I believe Chih hired him. I am not sure. I am not sure of the dates. He’s been around awhile. I don’t know the newer people. I taught in the Radiation Center in the early 90’s because it seem that the curriculum in Radiological Health or Radiation Health Physics required a course in radiation Biology and they had no one to teach it. I had retired from teaching but I had been teaching the course for years. They asked me to come back and I taught in the conference room there in the center for two or three years. I had contact with people there. Chih was still there. Chih became totally deaf in his later years. I had to shout in his ear, it was really sad. I would see him regularly. Roy Young had an office, Poppy had an office to I am not sure. That office wing had been built some years past because they were really crowded.
Lyn – Yeah that was the temporary wing that is now is almost 40 years old.
Dave – Is it 40, I forget when it was built.
Lyn – ‘74 I think.
David – There were simply not enough offices allocated initially. I mean it was hard to decide how that facility would be used, how it would grow. With the addition of the reactor they had offices in that reactor building but it wasn’t enough.
Lyn – Well I sure appreciate this. It is very interesting, Am I missing anything, I should ask you about?
David – It’s hard to say. I would say you cannot over emphasize the role that Chih Wang play in this. There would be no Radiation Center, there would be no TRIGA reactor without him. He engendered great support from the president’s own way from Popovich over the years, from the engineering deans. He developed personal relationships. He didn’t misuse them. He had a good spirit about him that lets work together for the common good. I appreciated that view he had, very much so. You can read the material I wrote about him there, for his memorial service. The books we both worked on were very prominent. It was a good experience.