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Clarkson Alumnus Pledges $25,000 To Create Endowment Fund In Honor Of Prof. Richard Partch
It was the fall of 1976, and Pete Luellen had had it.
On the verge of winding up his third semester at Clarkson University, he was fed up with studying, fed up with schoolwork, fed up with homework, and just fed up, period. So, Luellen and two other frustrated sophomores decided to blow off their finals, bail out of school —permanently— and head south to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It turned out that life on the beach wasn’t all it was cracked up to be
“It was more romantic in thought than in deed,” he said.
Wiser for the experience, Luellen returned to school just as the spring semester began -- which meant that he had to make up his finals from the previous semester. While some teachers let him take the same exams his classmates did, Richard E. Partch, his organic chemistry professor, wrote an exam especially for Luellen. Partch didn’t have to do it — he could have given Luellen an “incomplete” grade — but he did. And that integrity was a big reason that Luellen decided to pursue organic chemistry as a major.
Over the next two years, Partch was Luellen’s professor and adviser. “I looked to him for advice,” he said. “Not just for academic advice, but other things as well.”
And when it came time to do a senior thesis, Dick Partch was Luellen’s mentor. “Peter blossomed as a senior thesis student,” said Partch. “I count the publication that he co-authored with me at the end of his senior thesis as one of the top three or four publications that I have published.”
Luellen received his degree, served in the Army, and then went to work in the corporate world. But he never forgot the help he received from Partch.
Now Luellen, a database developer for IBM, has pledged $25,000 to establish an endowed fund in the name of the man who mentored him 20 years ago. The Richard E. Partch Endowed Fund will support undergraduate research activities directed by Partch or by other faculty members of the Chemistry Department. Luellen's gift will be matched by his employer, IBM, creating a total gift of $50,000.
“I felt kind of drained in the sense that it was such a great honor,” said Partch. “How humbling it was to be honored in this way… Any teacher would think that there was one shot in a million that somebody would do this.
“When you try to be a good teacher and fail so many times, but one out of every several students finds some reason to think that their life was made better because of me-- then that’s what it’s all about.”
Although Luellen hasn’t seen Partch face-to-face since his graduation two decades ago, he is grateful to his teacher, mentor and friend for playing such an important role in his life.
“Dr. Partch was a big influence on my life, not only academically, but personally,” said Luellen. “I feel honored to give such a gift. This guy has a passion for teaching and the subject of chemistry. He has a passion for getting people excited. There were times where he would just get fired up about chemistry. And when you’re with him, it’s easy to get excited, too.
“I was lucky to go to Clarkson. It played a big role in my life. It was a simple matter of giving back. I can’t pay them back completely, but I wanted to make this gesture.”
Following his 1979 graduation from Clarkson, Luellen spent six years in the Army as an Airborne Ranger and eight years as an instructor at Outward Bound. He then became a consultant in applications development for Comp USA. At the time of his gift commitment, Luellen was working as an Information Technologies Specialist for IBM Global Services in Rochester, N.Y. Today, he is a database developer for IBM and lives in Asheville, N.C.
Partch, who has been a professor at Clarkson since 1965, has enjoyed a successful and internationally recognized career in the field of particle synthesis and surface modification. His reputation is widespread in industrial sectors. Partch has been recognized as a fellowship recipient by the National Academy of Science and the Rotary Foundation Scientific Exchange.
Luellen’s gift is part of the "Campaign for Clarkson," a $70-million comprehensive fund-raising effort that was publicly announced in October 1998. Support for academic programs such as this endowment is a key priority in the campaign. In addition to student financial aid, other priorities of the campaign include support for academic programs and the new Bertrand H. Snell Hall. To date, $12 million of $35 million has been raised toward the academic excellence goals, and $39 million has been raised toward the $70 million total campaign goal.