Addison Ault

Addison Ault Retirement Celebration
Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Saturday, April 14, more than 120 alumni, faculty, and friends gathered to celebrate Addison Ault’s 50 years of teaching at Cornell College.

Photos from the event


29 Responses to “Addison Ault”

  1. Grant Price says:

    I am going to try to come, but it is a bit of a longshot. I live in NJ, and probably have to work a full day on Friday.
    Dr. Ault is one of the main reasons I ended up in the sciences.

    As I look at my college-student son and his friends, a common theme is that the organic chemistry course is universally a source of dread.
    Well Dr. Ault made my organic chemistry course a source of wonder and fascination, and I loved it from day one. And I really, really learned it. Not by rote, but from real understanding, as he taught it.
    My first job out of college was as a research chemist.
    Times changed, and I ended up going to medical school eventually. In some ways, I appreciated my Cornell training in chemistry even more. I was able to gain top score in chemistry on the MCAT. WHen I arrived at my Ivy League med school, I was initially quite worried that the rest of my class was from top eastern schools, but ended up tutoring many of them in what I thought was basic chemistry.

    So Dr. Ault, I never did forget you, and the fundamentals you gave me serve me still.

  2. David Beck says:

    We, as students, were always in awe of Dr. Ault. He is such a Renaissance man,and seems ageless. He always seems to take such joy with life. He is truly one of my heroes and it is hard to think of Cornell without him.

    • Addison Ault says:

      Hi, Dave — Thanks for your kind words. Please look me up next time you are in Mount Vernon or at the college.


  3. Jaime (Arwood) Weber says:

    I have such fond memories of earning my chemistry minor at Cornell … Dr. Ault’s classes remain one of the brightest memories of those years. Best wishes for retirement!

  4. Loren F. Hiratzka says:

    Drs. Pray, Rogers, Deskin and Ault were responsible for providing me with the educational background as well as the impetus and model to ask questions in a scientific way that has carried me through many years since being on the Hilltop. Thanks, Dr. Ault, for everything you did for me and for all of your students. I wish you and yours only the very best for years to come.

  5. James and Donna Nicholson says:

    Addison – Congratulations on a very successful 50 years of teaching. We are happy we knew you “in the beginning” and it has been fun to watch you and your career grow. Best wishes to your family and we hope you enjoy this special day in your well deserved honor! Donna and Jim Nicholson

  6. Arthur H. Reis, Jr. says:

    Addison….Thanks for teaching a kid from Cicero the finer points of life, like classical music. Most of all thanks for the inspiration for scientific research. It was that first summer in your lab on the NSF grant with Ray Kraig and others that was the catalyst for future explorations of a wide variety of diverse topics. I am still exploring interesting areas of science mainly in molecular biology and infectious disease pathogens. You and your family were always wonderful hosts to us. I remember fondly our dinners in Harvard Square when you taught your summer course. I am sorry that I will not be able to be with you on April 14, but I truly wish you the best. I still owe you one UV lamp. With the kindest of regards, Art

  7. Chris Ellerbroek says:

    Obviously, Addison was a fantastic teacher. And very patient. When Charlie Vasey and I couldn’t get the NMR to work, he patiently ejected the THREE samples we had in there. That patience extended to trying endless ways for us to grasp the concepts that he knew so well, and he was phenomenally successful.

    What I most remember, though, is how sneaky fast he was. I had receivers at Cornell that could have learned a thing or two from him. He was truly the Freddie Balitnekof of Chemistry flag football.

  8. Tahllee Baynard '97 says:

    I am looking forward to the celebration on the 14th. Such a great reason to come enjoy the people and campus that make Cornell such a wonderful and special place.

  9. Rosalyn (Bunda) Popham says:

    Dr. Ault- Congratulations on 50 years of teaching! An amazing accomplishment. (And I’m even more excited that my years at Cornell in your classes didn’t make you quit or rethink teaching. Maybe just slightly pushed you over the edge.) I am so appreciative of my Cornell experience and the direction that science took me. Thank you for all you have given the Cornell Science Department. If it wasn’t enough to see you for blocks at a time in West Science Center, it was always wild to then have orchestra rehearsal with you too. From one orchestra member to another, best wishes on your new adventure in life. Rosalyn (Bunda) Popham ’93.

  10. Elaine Hayes says:

    Prof. Ault, I will always have fond memories of you in orchestra. My 4 years at Cornell were highlighted by my time in orchestra, with you and John and everyone. My memories of you and your cello make me smile. God Bless You.

    Elaine, ’88

  11. Rich Kraig says:

    Addison, congratulations on your retirement. Marcia and I are delighted to come and share in your retirement celebration.
    While you played an important role in guiding me through the difficulties of organic chemistry, I’d like to remind you of how much more you contributed to my life and what this has meant to me. You were my advisor, mentor, and an optimal role model of what an academician should be. For me you embody Cornell – a place where Faculty provide a nurtured path of opportunities to progressive independence.
    I had the good fortune of spending most of my latter two years at Cornell pursuing an independent study project begun with Don McKelvey. He went on sabbatical and you assumed supervision of my project, while also being my advisor. His departure allowed me to personally use a lab above the old chemistry library. A young undergraduate with his own lab! The work we did together was published in peer-reviewed journal a year after I graduated (J Organic Chemistry). However, the most important aspect of my first semi-independent research was your continued warm and understanding oversight. The latter included the time when a gun powder-like material blew up in the lab and coated the flat white paint of the lab only above the bench-tops gray. Later, a water hose fell off of a cooling bath and flooded an office far below the lab. In each case you were always understanding and helped “clear the path” for continued research. Clearing the path also extended to a few out-of-the-lab rambunctious activities I now like to refer to as “performance art,” which others at the time had more negative opinions of their merit. Nonetheless, you were always the supportive advisor.
    Your constant support extended to Holidays. Some of us with campus board jobs couldn’t travel home for Thanksgiving. Instead you invited us to your home for that important dinner. Your table extended from the dining room into the kitchen by way of the doorway, making it all the more obvious the degree to which you and your wife went to include us.
    Finally, as I completed the requirements for a chemistry degree, you suggested I try for dual graduate program as an M.D., Ph.D. candidate. Good advice! After training, it led to my current activities over the last 30 years. A chance contact with an undergraduate from Cornell seeking a donation from me helped trigger my current activities with the Dimensions Program at Cornell. For me the program is a chance to try and emulate the extent and quality of what you have given to students for fifty years. Thanks for all you have done for all of us.
    Rich & Marcia Kraig

  12. Dave Crow says:

    Dr. Ault, You along with Dr. Jordan and Dr. Deskin, provided me with the skills, knowledge and most of all, the intrigue of chemistry. That “intrigue” I shared with my students over the course of 37 years of high school teaching. And make no mistake, I included your name as I talked about mechanisms, nomenclature and the rest. And as well, the adventure of working in the organic lab in the presence of ether and sodium and all the smells of organic solvents. It was a badge of courage to show the holes in my sweatshirt made by sulfuric acid and to have your clothes smell of the old lab, 2nd story in the chem building. Our Organic III class especially stands out. The 5 unknowns. I missed one of them. I am still not over it. And there was the final exam. You made a late entrance, dressed in black. We hissed as you entered the room. But you had the final word, as the first question was completely in German. There was a guy in the back, we called him “Trucker.” He yelled out, are you _______ me? It was survival chemistry…and we were all better for it. Many of us there that day went on to be chemists of one sort or another, thanks to your involvement not only in our learning, but our lives as students of Cornell. We remain indebted to you for your life changing influence. I regret that I cannot attend your celebration, but please accept my congratulations for 50 years of exceptional teaching. Regards, Dave ’67

  13. Addison, congrats on 50 years of teaching at Cornell. I believe Tom and I arrived the same year you and Janet did, 1961, a long time ago. I remember you took an evening pottery class with Tom but didn’t stick with it for very long……it just came too easily for you! Those were memorable years during the ’60’s and deeply cherished. If Tom were still with us he would join me in wishing you a very healthy, happy retirement.

  14. Scott Michael says:

    Dear Dr. Ault,
    Congratulations on your 50 years of teaching and well-deserved retirement! You were my professor for four organic chemistry classes and a role model for me in multiple ways. I ended up doing 2-D NMR for my doctoral work and I now teach cell and molecular biology. I’ll look forward to seeing you again in April and celebrating with you. Thank you so much for everything.
    Scott (’86)

  15. Bob Howard says:

    Congratulations on a long and varied career. You, Dr. Jordan and Dr. Deskin did so much to point many of us to careers in chemistry and develop us as individuals.

    I was not the best organic student and have many fond, and not-so-fond, memories of organic lab. There was the pre-lab quiz in which we were asked to fold a piece of fluted filter paper and turn it in at the front bench. Many were beautiful (people who had obviously read the lab before coming) but mine turned into a wadded ball of paper. And once I connected the burner to the water instead of the gas. There is a nozzle effect that causes the water to hit the ceiling. Then there was my ether fire. I realized it was a religious experience and the lord was speaking to me in the form of a burning reaction flask saying, “Go into physical chemistry.”

    You were a great mentor to many excellent organic students, but you were also patient and encouraging to many of us who weren’t. Working with your help through challenging situations like those in organic was one of the great maturing factors in my education. Thanks for all you have done for all of us.

  16. Ray Kraig says:

    Dear Addison:
    What a joy it was to be one of your students! You gave so freely and completely to us all: support, guidance, encouragement, challenge, insight and perspective. You helped us hone our critical thinking skills and stimulated our creativity. You made us each feel as if we were being mentored by a modern day Merlin. We were, except ours’ was named Ault.

    My first summer NSF grant experience with you and Art (Reis) and the warmth you and your family extended to us (Art and me, my brother Rich and so many others) on those Thanksgiving dinners are fond memories I’ll never forget. In addition, I recall the day something prompted to me to start climbing the exterior facade of the old Chemistry Building, hoping I wouldn’t be caught or reprimanded by someone in authority. You did catch me, but you joined me in my mischief. Fortunately, we both made it down safely. Then there was the afternoon and early evening we left our mark on the entire campus: prevailing winds let all know that we were trying to synthesize a mercaptan. So what if it smelled like skunks!!! But the most heartfelt memory for me was your phone call welcoming me home safely from my time overseas, seemingly so long after I left Cornell.

    Your input and impact on us went well beyond the classroom and science as you embraced life and us fully and became an example for us to emulate. Thank you for everything from me personally and from all who you touched. I’m sorry I cannot join you on April 14th.

    May your retirement be simply splendid!! Best wishes always, sincerely,
    Ray (’68)

  17. Lisa Utschig says:

    Dear Addison,
    Congratulations on your 50 years of teaching! You are an inspiration!
    Thanks to you, Dr. Deskin and Dr. Jordan, I have a career I love as a research chemist. Although, organic chemistry remains my LEAST favorite topic… (sorry) But I never forgot “pKa vs. pH” (on your every exam.)
    Our trip to the spring Boston ACS meeting was not only memorable, but life-changing, as I met my future graduate school advisor at that meeting (Tom O’Halloran, NWU). He gave a seminar on metalloregulatory proteins. During his seminar-I thought, that’s what I want to work on. And that turned out to be my exact PhD project. So thank you for taking me to my first ACS meeting… years later I’m an invited speaker to ACS.

    I’m sorry I will not be able to attend your retirement celebration.
    Thank you for your positive energy, sincerity, and caring.
    All the best to you!!!
    Lisa (’90)

  18. Donald McKelvey says:

    Dear Addison

    Although I was never enrolled in any classes at Cornell College I was a student of yours. My first teaching job was at Cornell and in my three years there I learned a lot from you. I observed how you worked with the students and the concern that you showed for them. I saw how active you were with your writing and your research and how dedicated you were to teaching. You were an excellent roll model for me and I became a better teacher as a result of the three years I spent with you. Thank you. If there are plans to initiate a scholarship in your honor please let me know so that I can contribute.

    Before I sign off I would like to say that Cornell College has been blessed with some world class teachers. In my three years there I was privileged to know, besides yourself, Dave Lyon, Paul Christiansen, Len Staudinger and Bill Deskin – all world class teachers and world class people.

    Don McKelvey

  19. Randy Engel says:

    Dear Addison,

    What an amazing career you have had! It has been 42 years since I last sat in your organic chemistry class, eagerly taking in your approach to understanding organic chemistry that has stayed with me all these years. Even though I took only one organic chemistry course beyond the three I took from you, I have been teaching college level organic chemistry for 35 years and have co-authored nine organic chemistry textbooks! My students are always surprised when I tell them that I don’t have an advanced degree in organic chemistry. However, when I tell them that I learned my organic chemistry from Addison Ault, my credibility quickly returns!

    All joking aside, it wouldn’t surprise me if your reputation as a teacher were to reach a few of my students in Seattle. Your lectures were a work of art, presented with great clarity and an approach that encouraged understanding rather than rote memory. I recently looked at the notes I took when I was in your classes and I was amazed at how similar our approaches are to teaching organic chemistry.

    Like Dave Crow, my best memories from your classes were the qualitative analysis labs that we did during the last semester and I can still remember the identity of some of the unknowns. Some of us were so absorbed in this work that we did unsupervised lab work in the organic lab on the weekend! I don’t know if this was officially condoned, but it sure was fun.

    Even more exciting was finding a way to get to the roof of the chemistry building, from where we threw Frisbees to a crowd of fellow chemistry students, who would run down the hill trying to catch the Frisbee! Other activities took place in the chemistry building on weekends that I best not discuss!

    In addition to being a wonderful organic chemistry professor, your integrity, love of knowledge in general, and approachability stood out. By the time I was an senior, we felt comfortable enough with you to invade one of your classes with water balloons. However, I don’t remember who was the target of the balloons!

    Although I won’t be able to attend your retirement party, I have deep respect for your 50 years of service to Cornell and feel fortunate that I had you as my organic teacher. I wish you the best in your next phase of life.

    Like several others have mentioned, I also feel greatly indebted to William Deskin and Truman Jordan for the excellent foundation in chemistry you all provided.

    Randy Engel (’68)

  20. Charles Carter says:

    Your training in Beilstein was incomparable. I have been a Prof. For 40 years,yet I feel your labs & lectures like yesterday. You have taught my 2000 students also. Thank you for all of us and for your clear thought….what an example!

  21. Steven Dankle says:

    Dr Ault,
    Congratulations on your retirement. Having visited with you within the past year, I have to say that you seem no different than when I first sat in your Organic Chem 1 course 37 years ago. I’m in awe of your achievement and wish you the best in your retirement.

    Steve Dankle ’77

  22. Jim Noesen says:

    Dr. Ault,

    Honored and priviledged to have been your student.

    Beautiful! Would be glad to relive it all again.

    Best Wishes

    Jim Noesen

  23. Doug Henke says:

    If Dr Ault could help a dolt like me get a good enough grade in Organic Chem to go to med school it is sure proof that he is an amazing teacher. Honored to have studied under him

    D. Henke, M.D. (1977)

  24. Louis Thompson says:

    Dr. Ault was the most athletic,organized,and “clear to understand” , teachers that I have ever met. Wish him the best. Louis Thompson Rph. ’79

  25. Garrett Feddersen says:

    I really appreciated Dr. Ault’s patience and guidance in O-Chem! He never seemed to lose his cool, even when you light a sink on fire in the lab… He is one of the many I have to thank at Cornell for helping me along my path into medical school. Unfortunately I will not be able to make it, but I appreciate the opportunities I had to study under him!

    Garrett Feddersen
    MS3, Des Moines University
    Cornell College Class of 2008

  26. Rommel Fuerste says:

    Addison, Congratulations on a wonderful career. I have fond memories of O-Chem. However, maybe you let one slip thru who shouldn’t have. My twins are in college taking chemistry. They call me with questions, and I have no idea what they are talking about. That was long ago, and far away.

    Rommel Fuerste (1979)

  27. Bruce Frana says:

    Addison, Congratulations once again! Many wonderful stories, anecdotes and comments were made at your presentation. I want to add two other anecdotes that add to the fine things told about you. During my second semester junior year, I was taking three chemistry courses which meant I was spending many late nights studying! One day you walked by the lecture room and observed me nodding off a bit (maybe even sleeping!) during a discussion. You quietly returned a few minutes later with a fleaker full of coffee, set it on my desk and then left, never uttering a sound. Truman just smiled and continued with our class. I also remember during our summer research days you always made a large punch bowl of lemonade for our afternoon breaks; with the lack of air conditioning in the chem building the cold refreshments were always welcomed. What was most interesting, of course, was that you gave each of us student researchers our own beaker labeled with our individual names to use for our “glasses”! We never questioned what may have originally been in them; we accepted them as a wonderful “gift” from you. Again, congratulations on your retirement. You have been a wonderful mentor and friend over the years.
    Bruce Frana, ’73

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