Last Lectures: Prof. Patrick McDougal [chemistry, 1990]

We salute retiring (and not-so-retiring) professors.

By Nisma Elias ’12 | September 1, 2013

Reed may not have a competitive sports program, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t get a pep talk—especially if you took chemistry. 

Pat McDougal’s rousing, animated style earned him the nickname “Coach Pat.”

McDougal graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a PhD in chemistry in 1982. He taught at Georgia Tech for several years before joining the chemistry faculty at Reed, where he became renowned for his skill at the science (or art) of synthesis of organic molecules. One of his former students, Kristopher McNeill ’92, explained:

“I absolutely adored having Pat as an instructor and as a presence in the department . . . I was captivated by the way he drew organic molecules on the board—how it seemed impossibly fast and fluid. I remember a particular moment when I was standing at the hood during my junior year, working on an independent study project, and was able to watch Pat holding court in front of a couple of sophomores at the board on the far side of the lab. He was explaining to them the concept of diastereotopic protons and why the two methylene protons of an ethyl group in a chiral molecule have different NMR shifts. This completely blew my mind, but I tried not to openly stare and show my wonderment, since I was the big, bad older student. The little throw-away five-minute lesson stuck with me and I have been using the same explanation and blowing the minds of unsuspecting bachelor, master, and PhD students to this day.”

After 24 years of making sure his students are challenged while not burning the chemistry building down, McDougal is leaving Reed, on what he acknowledges is somewhat of an early retirement, to try something new that will occupy him mentally and professionally. “Reed is a consuming place, not just for students. I wanted a little space to figure the next steps out. From what little I have read about retirement planning, I know I have broken the cardinal rule about careful preparation . . . I guess I see it as just another research project,”
he said.

Tags: Professors