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Ahmed Zewail, the first Arab to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field, will give the 2010 commencement address at Southwestern University. The ceremony will be held Saturday, May 8, at 2 p.m. in the Corbin J. Robertson Center.

Zewail is the Linus Pauling professor of chemistry and professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

A native of Egypt, Zewail received his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in chemistry from Alexandria University in Egypt. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley before joining the Caltech faculty in 1976.

Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for pioneering the development of a new field known as laser femtochemistry. Using lasers and molecular beams, femtochemistry has made it possible for researchers to see chemical reactions as they happen in real time. Femtochemistry has had an impact on chemical, biological and medical research all over the world, and is someday expected to yield practical results by allowing improved control of chemical processes used in manufacturing and drug design.

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Members of the graduating class of 2010 have been instrumental in pushing Southwestern to embrace more environmentally friendly practices. So it is only fitting that their commencement ceremony will be Southwestern’s first “green” graduation.

The graduates will wear robes that are made of an acetate fabric that is made from wood sourced exclusively from renewable managed forests. The robes are biodegradable, so graduates who choose to can leave them to be composted after the ceremony.

The gowns come packaged in plastic that contains a special material to help it decompose as well.

“It is important that we be cognizant of the impact events like graduation have on the environment,” said senior Sarah Gould, who helped select the new robes as a student worker in the University Events Office. “Any way we can make graduation work the way it always has and be better on the environment is a good decision.”

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Five of Southwestern’s early presidents are buried in the IOOF Cemetery located just behind campus. Unfortunately, time has taken a toll on some of some of their resting places.

Bill Jones, Southwestern’s university historian, was particularly concerned about the family plot of Southwestern’s third president, Rev. John Howell McLean. Rev. McLean attended and taught at McKenzie College, one of Southwestern’s four “root” colleges. He was brought to Southwestern by its first president, Francis Asbury Mood, to help raise money for the college, and taught “mental and moral philosophy” while he served as president from 1891-1898.

The ornate cast iron fence surrounding Rev. McLean’s plot had been hit by cars, causing the sides to cave in. Several pieces of the fence were missing, including two corner posts.

In late January, Jones asked Joe LePage, director of Physical Plant, whether his employees might be able to help fix the fence. LePage and several colleagues examined the fence and considered the options, including removing the fence or repairing it.

“After much conversation, we agreed we had to make every attempt possible to save this one-beautiful fence,” LePage said.

Much of the task then fell to Tony Orcutt, a mechanic in Physical Plant who usually spends his time repairing lawn mowers and other small engines. Orcutt, who describes himself as a “Jack of all trades,” took the mangled fence back to his shop, completely disassembled it and took inventory.

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Southwestern students and faculty members will give a concert of low brass music in San Gabriel Park on Saturday, May 1, from 7-8. p.m.

The concert will take place by the pedestrian bridge located near the intersection of Stadium Drive and Lower Park Road. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket to sit on the grass and bring a picnic dinner and/or beverages. 

The concert is made possible by a grant from the San Gabriel River Trail Project, which is funded through a grant from the 3M Foundation. In the event of rain, the concert will be held Sunday, May 2, from 7-8 p.m.

For more information, contact Eileen Meyer Russell at 512-863-1732 or


Would you like to learn more about some of the people are who are buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery behind Southwestern? The Williamson Museum is offering residents the opportunity on May 1 from 4-6 p.m.

The museum is sponsoring a tour that will focus on Civil War veterans who are buried in the cemetery. Among them is Rev. James Sterling Lane, who served as the first chaplain at Southwestern in his capacity as minister of the First United Methodist Church in Georgetown. Volunteers dressed in period costume will portray the veterans.

The tour is self-guiding and can be done anytime between 4-6 p.m. Cost is $10.

Media Coverage

The Williamson County Sun ran an article about the restoration of the fence surrounding the grave of former Southwestern President John McLean.


The following students received awards at the Twelfth Annual Student Leadership Banquet April 22:

Overall Leader Award – Sarah Gould
Emerging Leader Award – Alexis Kropf
First-Year Award – Colin Berr and Katherine Tanner
Sophomore Award – Dara Harmon and Jessica Vittorio
Junior Award – Alex Burbey
Senior Award – Alex Caple

The Student Organization Award went to the Student Foundation and the Organization Advisor Award went to Professor Don Parks for his work with Omicron Delta Kappa. Read some of what Parks told the banquet attendees here.

Emily Gutzmer, Tanlyn Roelofs and Zach Zeman have been awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships in Germany for the 2010-11 academic year. Roelofs graduated in December with a major in anthropology and a minor in German. Gutzmer is graduating in May with a double major in international studies and German. Zeman is graduating in May with a double major in music education and German. Read more here.

First-year students Rosalie Bonner and Thomas Newman have been named to the prestigious Kemper Scholars Program.

The scholarship-mentorship program prepares students for leadership and service, especially in the fields of administration and business. Kemper Scholars receive annual scholarships of $3,000 to $10,000 during their sophomore, junior and senior. Kemper Scholars also receive stipends to cover the cost of an internship with a major nonprofit organization in Chicago during the summer following their sophomore year and an internship with a for-profit corporation in the summer following their junior year. Bonner is majoring in communication studies and Newman is majoring in physics and environmental studies. Read more here.

Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry, has been awarded the first place 2010 Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh Undergraduate Analytical Research Program  grant. The one-year, $10,000 grant will support her research on the analysis of polyphenolic compounds in basil. Niemeyer will work with junior chemistry major Lauren Kjolhede, first-year biochemistry major Patrick Flanigan and Jennifer Brodbelt, professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, to identify unknown basil polyphenols using metal complexation strategies with liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. The SACP awards two UARP grants annually to promote high-quality, innovative undergraduate research in the field of analytical chemistry.