Endowed Fund Honors Chemistry Prof. Gerald Van Hecke ’61

An overflow crowd gathered during Alumni Weekend to honor and congratulate Gerald Van Hecke ’61 at a surprise presentation of the Gerald R. Van Hecke ’61 Endowment for the Advancement of Chemistry.

#HMCAlumniWkndFellow Founding Class member Don Gross ’61 shared the story of the creation of the endowment fund after the crowd of colleagues, alumni and friends welcomed the surprised and delighted Van Hecke, who had arrived from a Department of Chemistry reception.

Gross detailed how he came up with the idea in May 2014 to honor a legend: “my roommate, the best man at my wedding, and my friend for 58 years, who was about to start his 45th year on the faculty.”

With the advisement and help of chemistry faculty and administration, Gross proposed the establishment of an endowment in Van Hecke’s name that could be used at the discretion of the chemistry department chair for summer research, lab equipment, attendance at scientific meetings or in support of chemistry in general. The search for alumni and friends whose lives Van Hecke had impacted then began, and the advancement staff traveled coast to coast seeking participation. The response has been strong: 50 percent of the Founding Class, numerous chemistry alumni, members of the Alumni Association Board of Governors and other friends contributed to the fund, which exceeded the $100,000 goal. To date, $160,009.16 has been raised.

A donor plaque, presented at the May 1 gathering, reads “The Gerald R. Van Hecke Endowment for the Advancement of Chemistry, made possible by the generosity of alumni and friends of Harvey Mudd College. This endowment honors Gerald R. Van Hecke ’61, Donald A. Strauss Professor of Chemistry, for his 45-year legacy of teaching, research, mentorship, administration and service to the College.”

Van Hecke thanked those gathered and expressed gratitude for the honor. “If I’ve touched your life in some way, that’s great,” he said. “Go forward. Keep doing it.”

The endowment will provide support for the chemistry department for generations to come.