A Century of Service

The College celebrates Nick Pippenger, Gerald Van Hecke ’61 and Kerry Karukstis.

Share story

Kerry Karukstis (chemistry)

In 2020, Kerry Karukstis, Ray and Mary Ingwersen Professor of Chemistry, received the American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. The award recognizes Karukstis’ participation as an undergraduate research mentor and proponent of the teacher-scholar model at Harvey Mudd since 1984 and her active engagement in the undergraduate research enterprise at the national level through her involvement with the Council on Undergraduate Research since 1993. She has conducted student-faculty collaborative research with external funding provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, Research Corporation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and the Jonsson Foundation.

Through her National Science Foundation work with CUR and fellow PIs, she assisted over 200 institutions across the country in the process of institutionalizing undergraduate research, scaffolding the elements of undergraduate research throughout the curriculum and understanding the factors necessary for transformative organizational and cultural change. She said, “I have found undergraduate research to be a compelling way to meld the interests of faculty to engage in scholarly work with the needs of students for challenging experiences that lead to substantial impacts on their professional development.”

She credits undergraduates with propelling her research program forward. “Their enthusiasm, creativity, technical expertise and eagerness to try new and challenging approaches have been key to our success. ”

Karukstis, whose years of service have included chemistry department chair, chair of the faculty, and faculty representative to the board of trustees, has mentored more than 130 undergraduate research students (64% female), including 52 senior thesis students (62% female); 65% (of 121) have earned a PhD in chemistry and 90% have earned advanced degrees. She received the Henry T. Mudd Prize for extraordinary service to the College in 2003.

Nicholas Pippenger (mathematics)

In recognition of extraordinary contribution to the information technology industry, the IT History Society acknowledged emeritus professor of mathematics Nicholas Pippenger in 2014. He is an Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has produced a number of fundamental results, many of which are being widely used in the fields of theoretical computer science, database processing and compiler optimization. He is co-inventor of extendible hashing, a database access technique which has a dynamic structure that grows and shrinks gracefully as the database grows and shrinks. He began this work while at IBM Research with colleagues Ronald Fagin, H. Raymond Strong and Jürg Nievergelt (ETH, Zurich, Switzerland). The complexity class—problems quickly solvable on a parallel computer—was named Nick’s Class by Stephen Cook for Pippenger’s research on circuits with polylogarithmic depth and polynomial size.

In 2012, Pippenger was selected as part of the inaugural class of American Mathematical Society AMS Fellows. He is the author of Theories of Computability, published by Cambridge University Press (1997). Along with teaching and mentoring students in the areas of discrete mathematics and probability, communication theory and theoretical computer science, he was a Putnam Seminar co-coach.

Gerald Van Hecke ’61 (chemistry)

After earning his bachelor’s in chemistry (with distinction) at Harvey Mudd and a master’s and PhD in physical chemistry from Princeton University, Van Hecke worked briefly as a chemist for Shell Development, then returned to teach at HMC. The Eagle Scout, HMC Founding Class member and former department chair celebrated 50 years teaching at Harvey Mudd in 2020. He has taught nearly every course in the chemistry curriculum. His research focus is on thermodynamics and statistical thermodynamics of liquids—particularly liquid crystals.

He’s been an active member of the faculty and alumni communities, and he’s worked with the Admission Office as a faculty interviewer of President’s Scholars candidates. In 2000, Van Hecke was awarded the Henry T. Mudd Prize for his extraordinary service to the College. Among numerous professional distinctions and associations, Van Hecke has been a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Scholar, was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, is an Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and NASA Science Faculty Fellow.

In 2015, the College established the Gerald R. Van Hecke ’61 Endowment for the Advancement of Chemistry to honor Van Hecke’s legacy of teaching, research, mentorship, administration and service. Funds are used for summer research, lab equipment and attendance at scientific meetings, or in support of chemistry in general. A recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award (2001), Van Hecke has also supported the College’s alumni for more than five decades, serving in virtually every capacity for AABOG since 1965—work that he has called “a passion and a source of great satisfaction.” He received the award named for him—the Van Hecke Prize—in 2015.

Continue Reading

All Articles