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  • 08/05/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    Dr. Robert Floyd Curl, Jr. ’50 won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for the discovery of fullerene and shares this prize with Richard E. Smalley and Sir Harold Kroto. He became interested in chemistry after he received a chemistry set for Christmas at age 9. The chemistry teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, Mrs. Lorena Davis, encouraged his interest in chemistry. Dr. Curl credits her for leading him to understand that chemistry is an intellectual subject rather than a hobby. While a student at Jefferson, Dr. Curl was in the Radio Club, the Latin Club, the annual Monticello Staff and the Hayne Social Club.

    After high school, Dr. Curl earned his B.A. from Rice Institute in 1954, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California Berkeley in 1957. Dr. Curl was a professor at Rice University from Fall 1958 until July 2008. He taught undergraduate and graduate students and did fundamental research in chemistry. He studied the field of Organic Chemistry and Structural Chemistry. Currently, he is retired, yet “I dabble in some science and some economics projects”.

    Dr. Curl offers the following advice to the next generation of Mustangs: “Almost everyone goes through life on cruise control not really doing much hard thinking.  I would encourage the next generation to actually practice real thinking rather than being satisfied with the first thing that jumps to mind.  It is hard, but it can pay off big time to cultivate this facility.”

    The TJHS Alumni Association thanks Dr. Robert Floyd Curl, Jr. for this interview, serving as a great role model for all TJHS Mustangs and sharing his autobiography/biography as published in “Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1996.”  

    Contributing Writer: Michelle Resendez Mata
    Photo(s) Provided By: Dr. Robert Floyd Curl, Jr.

    Do you know a Mustang who should be featured on the #TJHSMustangs Spotlight? Email their name and contact information to tjhsalumni@gmail.com.

    I was born in Alice, Texas on August 23, 1933. My father was a Methodist minister, and my mother was what we then called a housewife. I have a sister, Mary, who is some years my elder. In those days, Methodist ministers moved often, and as a child I lived in a succession of mostly small towns in south Texas: Alice, Brady, San Antonio, Kingsville, Del Rio, Brownsville, McAllen, Austin, then back to San Antonio. During this time the church hierarchy recognized that my father was an able administrator capable of organizing people to get things done and gifted at resolving conflicts. From the time I was about nine my father was no longer pastor of a church but rather a supervisor of church activities over a district. This was a great relief to me as I was spared being the center of judgmental attention as the "preacher's kid."

    By the time I reached adulthood my father was universally revered as a fair, kind, and gentle man with an acute mind. His most enduring monument will be the San Antonio Medical Center as he worked hard and effectively to start the Methodist Hospital there, which really started the center.

    When I was nine years old, my parents gave me a chemistry set. Within a week, I had decided to become a chemist and never wavered from that choice. As I grew my interest in chemistry grew more intense, if not more sophisticated. Of course there was no chemistry in the school program until high school.

    I was not a particularly distinguished student as a child. My grades were good but obtained more by steady work than any brilliance on my part. I vividly remember my father telling me that one of my elementary school teachers had told him that I was not brilliant but I was a steady hard worker. Somehow the further I progressed in school, the easier it became to do well.

    It was a great delight when I finally got to study chemistry in high school. My teacher, Mrs. Lorena Davis, saw that I was keenly interested and did her best to foster and nourish that interest. As only one year of chemistry was offered then, I had no formal course in the subject to take my final year in high school. Mrs. Davis offered me special projects to satisfy my appetite for chemistry. I remember most constructing a Cottrell Precipitator. I was shocked to see Mrs. Davis, who didn't smoke, light up a cigarette and blow smoke into the precipitator to demonstrate that it worked.

    When it came time to choose a college, I got interested in Rice Institute. It had an excellent reputation as being a good school for a dedicated student. I was also impressed by how well its football team was doing. My parents loved my choice because at that time Rice charged no tuition, and they would have been hard pressed to send me to a university that did. While my father held the highest administrative office, not counting the Bishop, in the Southwest Texas Conference, he did not make much money.

    At that time there was a high failure rate at Rice. With no tuition, students were expected to prove themselves worthy or make way for someone else. However, I was ready for the challenge that Rice presented and prospered academically. Socially, my fellow students were ready for the challenge that I presented and worked hard to convert a rather straight-laced, serious boy into someone they could stand to be around.

    By a quirk of fate, the most colorful professors I encountered in my first years taught subjects other than chemistry. I liked my first and second year chemistry professors (in fact I later developed a closer relation with my second year professor, John T. Smith), but they were not particularly colorful. It was not until my third year when I had John E. Kilpatrick for Physical Chemistry and George Holmes Richter for Organic Chemistry that the chemistry department began to pull ahead in the colorfulness race. John Kilpatrick came to class, sat in the middle of the table in front, lit a cigarette, took an enormous drag, and began to speak. No smoke came out! Richter enlivened his lectures by describing the pharmacological effects of various organic chemicals. Richter was a fine teacher of Organic Chemistry, but that was of little use to me since I had an almost unnatural aversion to Organic Chemistry. Kilpatrick was the most welcoming to students of any person I ever encountered with absolutely no regard for the amount of time he spent with a student. This, happily for him, made the time he devoted self-limiting, because I would think about whether I had an hour or two to spare before dropping by to see him.

    The most impressive chemistry teacher I had was Richard Turner, whom I first encountered in a senior Natural Products course. (The curriculum was cleverly constructed so that it was impossible to avoid a second encounter with Organic Chemistry.) It was his enthusiastic discussion of barriers to internal rotation and the pioneering work of Kenneth Pitzer in the area that made me resolve to go to University of California, Berkeley, and work with Pitzer. This is a decision I have never regretted.

    While I was at Berkeley, Pitzer was the Dean of the College of Chemistry and a very busy man. Nevertheless he was always completely accessible to his graduate students, and always genuinely delighted to see me when I interrupted his work. When our conversation reached its conclusion, he graciously got me out of his office. I was grateful for this as well because at the time, as you can see from my comments about visiting John Kilpatrick, I had trouble with leave-takings. I think that I received an excellent education in how to do research from Pitzer. The most important work I did at Berkeley was on Pitzer's extension of the Theory of Corresponding States. Over the years, I have remained in contact with Ken and Jean Pitzer. Indeed, we were able to collaborate again in research some years later when he was president of Rice University.

    My years at Berkeley were some of the happiest of my life primarily because it was during this time that I met and married my wife, Jonel. Our union seemed pre-ordained when we discovered that our ancestors came from the tiny town of Center Point, Texas (pop. 300).

    At that time, there seemed to be an unwritten rule that Pitzer's students should do experiment as well as theory. This suited me, because I had always been interested in experiments. Pitzer suggested that I investigate the matrix isolation infrared spectrum of disiloxane in order to establish whether the SiO-Si bond was linear or bent. If I had tried to do these experiments involving liquid hydrogen without help, I believe there is a good chance an explosion would have resulted. However, a fellow student, Dolphus Milligan, helped me tremendously with these experiments and with his aid I was able to collect the necessary data, which indicated that Si-O-Si is somewhat bent from linearty.

    Pitzer was able to help me get a post-doctoral position with E. Bright Wilson at Harvard. At that time, Wilson had developed a method for measuring barriers to internal rotation using microwave spectroscopy and I was still interested in internal rotation barriers. It seemed a perfect situation. I enjoyed Harvard scientifically. Wilson's personality was very different from Pitzer's. Although he was born in Tennessee, he personified the New England virtues of upright integrity and serious concern about all aspects of life. His disapproval of superstition in all forms was well-known; none of us would dare mention in his presence the gremlins we all suspected inhabited his microwave spectrometer. Wilson above all was a fine, decent, caring person who wanted the best for his students.

    The atmosphere in Mallinkrodt Laboratory at Harvard was somewhat different from that of Lewis Hall at Berkeley. Perhaps it was because the graduate system and expectations for graduate students were different. At that time, a student was expected to complete his Ph.D. at Berkeley in three years while at Harvard it took many students five or even more years. Compared with the laid-back Berkeley graduate students of my day, Harvard students seemed intense and often eccentric. The big exception was Dudley Herschbach, who was modest, relaxed, and friendly, and the most brilliant intellect I had encountered in someone my own age.

    In those days faculty hiring was done with few formalities. Somewhat out-of- the-blue, I got an offer to come back to Rice as an Assistant Professor. The prospect of returning to a warm climate and familiar surroundings full of many happy memories was delightful and with no negotiations I happily accepted.

    I inherited George Bird's graduate students and his microwave spectrometer, which was more sensitive than Wilson's. Of these two strokes of good luck, Bird's students proved the greater treasure. My very first student was Jim Kinsey. He accomplished so much in the first year that I was at Rice that he graduated. The work we did together on the microwave spectrum of ClO2 and the treatment of fine and hyperfine structure set me up for a productive period of studying the spectra of stable free radicals.

    I have remained at Rice from 1958 until today. In my professional and research career, I have played a variety of roles and worked in several areas of Physical Chemistry, too varied to describe further. A great deal of my research has been collaborative involving other principals both at Rice and elsewhere. I have enjoyed quite a few very pleasant research associations over the years. Outside Rice I have collaborated with C.A. Coulson, Roger Kewley, Takeshi Oka, Ken Evenson, John Brown, Eizi Hirota, Shuji Saito, Anthony Merer, Wolfgang Urban, Harry Kroto and Leon Phillips. Among the Rice Faculty, I have enjoyed collaborations with John Kilpatrick, Frank Tittel (for the last 25 years), Phil Brooks, Rick Smalley, Graham Glass and Bruce Weisman. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Rick Smalley, Harry Kroto, and myself for the fruits of one of these collaborations, the discovery of the fullerenes.

    I must point out that we do not claim this discovery is ours alone. James Heath and Sean O'Brien, who were graduate students at the time, have equal claim to this discovery. Both Jim and Sean were equal participants in the scientific discussions that directed the course of this work and actually did most of the experiments. The early experiments that Sean and Jim did not do were carried out by Yuan Liu and Qing-Ling Zhang. At an early stage, Frank Tittel became involved in this work. At a later stage, F.D. Weiss and J.L. Elkind did the shrink wrap experiments, which were among the strongest evidence for the fullerene hypothesis.
  • 07/29/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    Stephen Ray Cole Estrada ’13, a recent graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, will be attending Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, to double-major in Business Administration and Digital Film Production in August 2013. Currently, Stephen is an intern at Turner Construction of San Antonio. Turner Construction is the contractor chosen to complete renovations on Thomas Jefferson High School.

    While at Thomas Jefferson, Stephen was a member of a multiple clubs and organizations: Architecture Club, ACE Mentorship, Future Business Leaders of America, Carpe Futura Psychology Club and Thomas Jefferson Hayne Club. His biggest influence at Jefferson was his architecture teacher, Mr. David Garcia. “He's helped me experience many of the fields of work and [has] given me guidance to the path I'm looking to pursue. Another huge influence I've had is my brother.” Stephen’s brother will graduate from the University of the Incarnate Word with a degree in marketing. Stephen said, “He's walked me through the college lifestyle and directed me in the path that will lead me to being ready for the high school-college transition.”

    Of all the classes Stephen took at Thomas Jefferson, English and Literature were eye-openers. “In that class, I realized my knack for pursuing knowledge and rhetorical attributes...” As his senior year approached, Stephen discovered his own level of leadership when he joined the Hayne Club. Doing research on this club, he learned that it had been disbanded a number of years back and had been rebirthed, again. “In order to keep it from being a failing organization, I decided my fellow members and I should recruit members and take part in fundraisers that would get our club noticed. As the year went by, I discovered I have a great deal of leadership that had never been used until now.”

    Stephen’s advice to the next generation of Mustangs is to “discover who you really are and then you'll learn what is and is not right for you. Let your shining fantasies come to life when you see the path you are suited to walk. Let no one block your path, but let those who encourage you, walk alongside you.”

    Thank you Stephen Estrada for this interview and for serving as a great role model for all TJHS Mustangs.

    Contributing Writer: Michelle Resendez Mata
    Photo(s) Provided By: Stephen Ray Cole Estrada

    Do you know a Mustang who should be featured on the TJHS Mustang Spotlight? Email their name, graduation class year or TJHS affiliation (faculty, staff, former student, etc.) and their contact information to tjhsalumni@gmail.com. Remember, we also spotlight student groups too!
  • 07/22/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)

    David S. Sims ’62 hails from a family of Mustangs. This family includes: David’s mother, Marian Jeannette McClellan ’41; David’s sister, Maureen Jeannette Sims ’63; and his wife Carolyn Sue “Suzy” Allen ’61. While at Thomas Jefferson, David participated in Mustang Football and track and made the All-District Football team, 2nd String. He was also a member of the Hayne, Chaplin of the “J” Club, President of the Library Council and was Sponsor of the Hi-Yi. Pat Shannon, TJHS Head Football Coach, and the team of coaches taught David “how to not give up and the importance of winning”.

     

    David earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in 1965. David retired after a 29-year career with oilfield services giant Schlumberger.  During his career, David rose from Field Engineer in Hobbs, New Mexico, to Region Manager - Middle East, in Dubai, U.A.E. He held operations, marketing, and management positions in Venezuela, Angola, Trinidad, France, Iran, Argentina, U.A.E., U.K., Indonesia and the U.S.A.  In his early career, he was a geologist with Texaco Inc. in Midland, Texas. David credits his career to Dr. Frank W. Daughtery, Geology Professor at WTAMU, who taught him “Geology and the joys of traveling the world”.

     

    David is a member and Past Chairman of the Southwest Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).  He has been a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and served on the Advisory Council for the Center for International Business Studies at Texas A&M University. David presently serves on the Board of Directors of the WTAMU Alumni Association.

     

    Currently, David is a part-time substitute teacher at John Marshall High School in the Northside I.S.D. in the Math, Science and Spanish classes. Both David and Suzy volunteer at TJHS with the Hayne and MJR’s. In addition, the Sims travel frequently to visit their seven grandchildren who live with their two daughters in Tahoe City, California, and Bangkok, Thailand.

     

    David offers the following advice to the next generation of Mustangs, “You don't need to know what your "major" will be when you get to college.  But you do need to study and make the best grades possible in all of your high school courses while in high school. In your freshman year, you can start narrowing your search.”

     

    The TJHS Alumni Association thanks David Sims for this interview and for serving as a great role model for all TJHS Mustangs.

  • 07/15/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    Layla Gabrielle Hausner ’14 is Thomas Jefferson High School’s 2013-14 Student Council President. Layla is also in the Fine Arts Magnet Academy for Cinema, Gamma Sigma, Theatre and MJR’s. She’s focused on school and each of the activities she is involved in at Jefferson. Mr. Rocha, Layla’s Cinema Teacher, has been influential in her work and activities at Jefferson. Layla said, “I see how successful he is and that inspires me to want to be successful in my life too.” Layla's advice to the next generation of Mustangs is, “…to be as involved as they can be, and focus on school because that is what will get you to go far. It all starts in high school.”

    The TJHS Alumni Association thanks Layla for this interview. We wish Layla a successful Senior Year!
  • 07/08/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    "MJRs" (MARTHA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH) - The MJRs were organized in 1932 to serve the school. Martha Jefferson Randolph was the eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Because her father was a widow when he was elected President, she served as First Lady during his administration. She also gave birth to the first child born in the White House.

    MJRs is a social club serving the school. During the year is the initiation of new members, service work in the school, culminating with a mother/daughter luncheon at the end of the school year. The main purpose of the club is expressed in its motto - "Lasting friendship through sisterhood."

    Thank you to David Sims for providing this history of the MJRs. Help us with Project Share Our Traditions. Learn more by visiting: http://tjhsalumni.wildapricot.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1622704
  • 07/01/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    "HAYNE" (HAYNE DEBATING SOCIETY) The Hayne Debating Society was organized November 1896 at Main Avenue High School and is the oldest boys' club in Texas. Its first meeting was called to order in an old barn. Originally, objectives of the club were to further interests in debating, promoting social activity among members and being of service to the school. Hayne was moved from Main Avenue when TJHS was opened. Today, Hayne's aim is to promote friendship and leadership among its members while being of service to the school. Hayne provides mascots for athletic events, mentoring and polishing brass around the school. The club is named after Robert Hayne, of the Webster-Hayne debate.

    Thank you to David Sims for providing this history of the Hayne. Help us with Project Share Our Traditions. Learn more by visiting: http://tjhsalumni.wildapricot.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1622704
  • 06/24/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    The Lasso organization was formed in October 1932 by Constance Douglas-Reeves. The original uniform consisted of a blue flannel skirt, a blue bolero jacket, red satin blouse, a pearl-grey Stetson hat and the iconic lasso rope attached to the waist of the skirt.

    Trick rope artist Johnny Regan taught the Lassos to twirl a short rope. The first lasso ropes operated on a swivel and required only a slight twist of the wrist to keep the rope moving. After graduating from Jefferson in 1936, Jack Long was hired by Douglas-Reeves. He was also a trick roper and formed the first Roping Team.

    The Lassos gained national attention when they were featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1938. In 1946, they were featured in the French magazine, Le Patriote Illustre and in National Geographic in 1947. The Lassos were invited as goodwill ambassadors to the New York World’s Fair in 1938 and during the same trip visited the US Capitol where they met Eleanor Roosevelt. In the summer of 1952, they went to Mexico as invited guests of US Ambassador William O’Dwyer. In 2011, a history of the Lassos was on exhibit for six months at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas.

    Over the years, other groups have formed within the organization to include a Drum and Bugle team in 1938 and a short-lived Lasso Cavalry in 1940. In the late 1970s, the dance team was formed. A flag team was organized in the early 1980s and lasted ten years. Today, the Roping Team and Dance Team perform at school district functions as well as many community events. They also compete in several competitions annually.

    The TJHS Lasso Alumni Association (LAA) started in December 2006 and is dedicated to preserving the Lasso traditions. Fundraiser events are held throughout the year and proceeds support the purchase of the traditional Lasso uniform and college scholarships. LAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and all contributions are tax deductible.

    Thank you to the TJHS Lasso Alumni Association for providing this history of the Lasso organization. Help us with Project Share Our Traditions. Learn more by visiting: http://tjhsalumni.wildapricot.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1622704
  • 06/17/2013 11:30 PM | Thomas Jefferon High School Alumni Association (Administrator)
    Bernard Rapoport '35 was honored as the Jefferson Alumni of the Decade of the 1930's on February 16, 2012. Rapoport was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and the founder of American Income Life Insurance Company.

    Here is what Rapoport shared regarding his education at TJHS in the 2007 Annual Report of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation: "After I finished junior high, I went to Thomas Jefferson High School and there I began to mature. I made good grades, of course. I had to. Papa said that anything less than an A is not acceptable. So, most of the grades were A's. Even though I had the potential to make good grades, this attitude was the same as my sister's and she later became a Phi Beta Kappa at The University of Texas. It is so important that a parent give a child something to live up to and whether these are goals, dreams, or both, the pursuit of perfection is a must." (http://www.rapoportfdn.org/rap2007ar.pdf)

    Bernard Rapoport passed away on April 5, 2012.

    To read more about Bernard Rapoport, please visit: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Longtime-Democratic-backer-Rapoport-dies-at-94-3465201.php.

    Photo Credit: www.mylifeatail.com
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