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Ann Volkmann Dick ’50

Ann was born in Brussels, Belgium, on September 5, 1927, to an American couple, James and Mary Volkmann. Her father worked for American Radiator Company, with headquarters in various European cities, and the family lived in Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland. As the clouds of war gathered over Europe, the family returned to the United States. Ann was 10 years old and finished her elementary education at a private school in Deerfield, Massachusetts. As wartime gas rationing allowed, summers were spent in Castine, Maine, at her grandmother’s summerhouse.

She then went to a progressive boarding school in Putney, Vermont, where besides schoolwork her greatest interest was skiing.

“Skiing was the be all and end all,” she said, “and I did altogether too much when I was at Reed, to the detriment of my academics.”

It was important to Mr. and Mrs. Volkman, educated at Harvard and Vassar respectively, that all of their children receive a college education. A fellow student at Putney told Ann, “You know where you should go? You should go to Reed College.”

Ann took the train to Portland and settled into Anna Mann. Later she would retrieve her 1936 roadster from Vermont so she could get to the competitive ski events, and to insure that she would have time to compete, her course load was spread over five years. The culmination of her ski career came when she was invited to the team trials for the 1948 US Winter Olympic Team in St. Moritz, but did not qualify.

“I could see the handwriting on the wall,” she said, “that this was not something I was going to be able to really succeed in when the pressure was on. And it was okay.”

She focused on her science courses in chemistry and biology and decided to major in chemistry.

During one of the chem labs on the top floor of Eliot Hall, students were given an unidentified powder in a test tube and asked to do a qualitative analysis of it. A practical joker friend of Ann’s, Frank Curtis ’48, got hold of her test tube before class and replaced the contents with ground glass.

“I was first supposed to figure out what this powder was soluble in,” Ann remembered. “I tried water, alkaline, acid, all those things and couldn’t get any results at all. I spent three lab periods, three hours each, on this before Frank finally came and said, ‘This is ground glass.’ I could have choked him.”

She wrote her thesis, The separation of glutathione and cysteine by paper chromatography, with Prof. Arthur Hamilton [chemistry 1948-65].

Ann served on Reed’s student council, square danced in the student union, sang in the madrigals, and once even performed in one of Prof. Herb Gladstone’s [music 1946-80] Gilbert and Sullivan productions. She also met a man who shared her loved for the outdoors and music, Gale Dick ’50.

Ann left Reed with a dual degree in chemistry and botany and returned to Putney to teach. She stayed in touch with Gale, who’d gone on to graduate school, and the two married in 1956. She worked as a lab technician at Cornell for two years while Gale finished his PhD. Then they went to the University of Chicago for a few years before moving to Salt Lake City in 1959. Their eldest son, Timothy, had been born in Illinois, and daughter, Robin, and son, Stephen Dick ’79, were born in Utah.

Ann got her master’s degree in plant biology at the University of Utah, and started teaching again in 1973, this time fourth and fifth graders instead of high school students.

After she retired, Ann was a docent at the University of Utah’s Museum of Natural History, a few blocks from her home. She also volunteered many hours with organizations such as Save Our Canyons, Friends of the Great Salt Lake, and the Guadeloupe Center. She was a passionate tennis player, hiker, birdwatcher and longtime season ticket holder to the Utah Symphony and Opera. She loved the mountains, the deserts, the rivers, and the cultural life of Salt Lake City. The University of Utah provided a great social life and together Ann and Gale built a wonderful group of friends. Until the end Ann maintained her warmth, charm, grace, and sense of humor.

Gale died last year. Ann’s sister, Betty Lou, and three children, Tim Dick (Jane), Robin Berg (Svenn) and Stephen Dick (Karen), seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren survive her.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2016

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