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Stockroom Czar Goes out with a Bang

By Mat Olson ’15 on October 13, 2014 05:19 PM

Stockroom manager Randie Dalziel demonstrated some of his favorite reactions at Randiefest 2014. Mat Olson ’15

After 27 years at Reed, chemistry lab and stockroom manager Randie Dalziel is retiring. To mark the historic occasion, the chemistry department organized Randiefest 2k14, which gave him a chance to showcase some of his favorite chemical reactions—in other words, to make things go “boom.”

Randie awed the crowd in Vollum lecture hall by wielding a fiery wand (a wooden stick dipped in flaming liquid oxygen), a glow-in-the-dark fountain (a round flask filled with luminol, the luminescent chemical used at crime scenes), and finished up with a spectacular demonstration of a thermite reaction, which produced an incandescent blaze of fiery sparks on the steps of Vollum.

“One time I did this on black top,” Randie said. “After the reaction there was this strange smoke, and we found out that the thermite burned through to the black top and melted it.”

Prof. Julie Fry [chemistry 2008–] looked back on Randie’s connection to chemistry. His interest in the field began when he received a chemistry set as a boy and continued throughout his schooling years—he excelled at the graduate courses in chemistry he took as an undergrad at Oregon State University. He studied chemistry at the University of Minnesota, and worked at car dealerships and as a synthesis chemist in the chemical industry before coming to Reed.

Several alumni came to watch the demonstrations. “Randie can identify any chemical just by smelling it,” Chris Cahill ’12 said fondly. Chris came right from his chemical industry job, still wearing his prescription safety glasses. “Randie makes everything happen. Your thesis; the labs; and he helps make sure the place doesn’t burn down.”

Randie said he’d miss feeling needed and helping students. Over his 27 years, he’s watched Reed “change, and stay the same all the time.” The beauty of campus, the camaraderie, and the independence in his work are all things he’s a little reluctant to leave behind, “ . . . and the money,” he added with a smile.

After the demonstration, the chemistry department threw a reception for Randie and Prof. Fry talked about the impact of his presence at Reed. “He helped me out a lot when I started here. Randie will be missed . . . he always put the students first.” A slideshow showed Randy throughout his career at Reed, including his first ID card, time spent with his daughters, grilling at chemistry department barbecues, and, of course, making stuff blow up.