Chemistry and Biochemistry

Emeritus Professors Honored at Alumni Dinner October 8

Posted: Oct 12, 2010

About 90 emeritus faculty, current faculty, alumni and their families arrived at the Benson Building Friday evening for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s annual alumni homecoming dinner and program.

The dinner was a delicious buffet from BYU Catering. The room buzzed with talk and laughter as old friends caught up on one another’s lives and others made new friends among the attendees.

After dinner, everyone moved to a lecture hall for two special presentations and a chemistry magic show.

“As this department has grown, we realize there are new faculty members who may not know the professors who came before and the valuable contributions those faculty members have made to our department,” Department Chair Dr. Greg Burton said by way of introduction. “That is why we’ve decided to begin a new tradition: recognize the emeritus professors who are pillars of the department. I realize that by recognizing some, we leave many others out. That’s why we’ll be doing this every year for at least a few more years.”

The first two awards, called Distinguished Pillar Awards, were presented to Dr. J. Rex Goates and Dr. Eliot A. Butler following brief sketches of their lives and contributions to the department.

“[Rex] has not sought recognition, but recognition has come anyway,” Dr. Francis Nordmeyer, a recently retired inorganic chemistry professor, said about J. Rex Goates in his life sketch. “Professor J. Rex Goates has led the way, set the example and helped to define a culture in this department. It is a culture where students are valued, where collegiality is valued, where excellence (teaching and research) is valued, and where people believe in the future… On behalf of all of us gathered here tonight and all of the alumni of this department, Rex, I say thank you.”

Dr. Earl Woolley, another emeritus professor, gave the presentation on Eliot A. Butler. “From the very beginning, Eliot Butler was eager to develop and participate in a rigorous curriculum. By that he meant a curriculum where students would learn to think, speak, and write clearly and correctly, and to work hard as they built upon sound fundamental principles,” Dr. Woolley said. “Most students recognized later that they became ‘educated’ by having known and interacted with Professor Butler.”

Dr. Jeff Macedone and Dr. Steven Wood built on the good feelings left by the presentations with a chemical magic show to top off the night. Their theme, “Chemical Insights on the Ag (Silver) Screen,” focused on special effects in movies like "The Wizard of Oz," "Godzilla" and "It’s a Wonderful Life." The two professors played off each other in a talk show style as they shared their ideas on how to improve the fire effects in the films.

“I don’t know, Steve,” Dr. Macedone said once as they contemplated the devastating tornado in "The Wizard of Oz." “Don’t you think that tornado could use some fire? I think any good tornado should have fire.”

The show ended with an explosive finale: now you see the big balloon “Y,” now you don’t.


As part of his presentation, Dr. Nordmeyer

asked people to stand who ahve been

influenced by J. Rex Goates.

The new and improved Wizard of Oz


The dinner line.

Dr. J. Rex Goates waves to the audience

in the lecture hall.

A young volunteer from the audience

speaks Parseltongue to a growing yellow


Exploding pizza boxes.

Lab coats and bow ties.

Smoke and ash fill the room during "Will it 


Godzilla breathes fire.

Now you see it...

Now you don't.

 Top photo: Fran Nordmeyer, J. Rex Goates, Earl Woolley and Eliot A. Butler at the presentation of the Distinguished Pillar Awards.

View a transcript of the presentation on J. Rex Goates

View a transcript of the presentation on Eliot A. Butler

By Jessica Henrie