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reed magazine logoSummer 2009

Centennial Campaign builds momentum

From Grain to Brain
Physics major endows Delord Chair with gift of wheat

For a physics professor, Paul Mockett ’59 is surprisingly well informed about wheat—he speaks casually of puts and calls and can identify several different varieties of the grain. Growing up on his Nebraska family farm, he always thought he would become a farmer. “There were limited educational experiences available to me,” he says. “But I had a math teacher in high school who greatly influenced my direction, and an English teacher who showed me the importance of studying the liberal arts.” His mother, who worked for the Oregonian for a spell, became a friend of the legendary Lloyd Reynolds, who thought Paul might fit in at Reed.


Paul Mockett ’59

Reynolds was right. “At Reed, there is a high level of intellectual curiosity,” Paul says, exemplified by his thesis adviser, professor Jean Delord (physics, 1950–88).

Delord was a true original: a member of the French resistance and expert forger who escaped from a Nazi work camp before eventually earning his PhD in physics at the University of Kansas. Delord’s research focused on solid state physics, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics; in his spare time, he lent a hand at high-tech firm Tektronix, founded by Howard Vollum ’36.

Delord was also an extraordinary teacher. “He would present difficult material with great geniality,” said former Delord student and Reed physics professor Nick Wheeler ’55 at the time of Delord’s death in 2002. “His example as a teacher influenced many people all over the country. Even now, I model my teaching on his example.”

After Paul wrote his thesis with Delord, he went on to earn a PhD in particle physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later joined the faculty at the University of Washington. His final project before retiring was to build muon detectors for use in the ATLAS project at the CERN proton collider near Geneva, Switzerland.

His device measures controlled collisions in order to detect fundamental subatomic particles called muons, whose presence might indicate new particles or mini black holes, which slough off muons in their decay.

Looking back, Paul wanted to honor the man who influenced him by endowing a Dr. Jean F. Delord Chair in physics. “I was surprised that no one had done this before,” he says.

When considering ways to fund the $1.5 million professorship, Paul went back to his roots. He decided to make yearly gifts of wheat from the family farm. “It was an opportunity thing,” he says. “The price of wheat was going up, and I could take advantage of tax laws to maximize what I could give.”

The gift is intended to reinforce one of Reed’s most distinctive traits: excellence in teaching. “One of the strengths of small colleges is the level of interaction with faculty, in a department that interacts with other departments,” Paul says. “It gave me insights and powerful tools for viewing the world outside of the sciences.”

—Matt Kelly

To learn more about how the Centennial Campaign will strengthen Reed and to make a gift, call the college relations office at 877/865-1469 or visit

Physics Majors Give More

The physics program at Reed is strong in part due to generous support from physics alumni. Over 72% of physics grads have made a gift to Reed. Here are a few examples of endowed funds established by physics majors:

Dr. Jean F. Delord Chair (2008)
A. A. Knowlton Chair in Physics (1972)
David W. Brauer Chair in Physics (1999)
Howard Vollum Science Chair (1987)
Kenneth E. Davis Scholarship (1999)
Gion Family Scholarship (2007)
John A. & Merilyn W. Piper Physics Scholarship (2008)
Archie and Ruth Tunturi Physics Memorial Scholarship (1995)
Frank and Ionemary Myers Memorial Scholarship (1996)
A. A. Knowlton Memorial Scholarship (1979)
Elizabeth and Douglas Tate Scholarship (2005)
C. Howard Vollum Memorial Scholarship (1987)
A. A. Knowlton Memorial Science Lecture (1959)
Historic Vollum Endowment Gift
In 1987, Reed College received what was, at that time, the largest gift in the history of the college from C. Howard Vollum ’36. Together with his bequest, gifts from Howard played a significant role in allowing the college to survive severe financial stresses in the 1970s.
reed magazine logoSummer 2009