Monday, December 26, 2011

Peter E. Yankwich

My respected and beloved thesis director, Peter E. Yankwich, was my advisor beginning on the day when I arrived at Carter Hall on the University of Illinois campus in 1964. Since he was the chair of the Physical Chemistry Division at the time, he was the initial advisor for all students like me who declared a major in P-chem. He advised us before or until we made our choice of thesis director. He was a tall and distinguished-looking gentleman. In Taiwan, many of our “distinguished professors” were quite absent-minded. However, Dr. Yankwich did not give any trace of being such a faculty member!

At that time, to become a candidate for the PhD degree in Chemistry, you had to pass the so-called cumulative exams. The rule, at the time, was that you had to pass seven before you failed seven. There were three exams a semester. The material could come from any field in P-chem. The first semester was free, i. e. it would not count against against you if you failed in your first semester. Everyone was very nervous for a couple of years!

I decided to work for Yankwich in my second year, as I liked his Kinetic Isotope effect project, which required doing both experimental as well as theoretical work. I started learning, first, how to blow glass in order to build my vacuum line. Then I learned how to operate and maintain an isotope ratio mass spectrometer. Finally, I learned how to program in machine language, which was then FORTRAN language. That period turned out to be, for me, a very important two years of learning in my professional skills as a Physical chemist.

During the summer months for several years, Mrs. Yankwich, Betty, would ask us to stay in their home when they were away in CA or NC for their vacations. We certainly enjoyed the air conditioned rooms!

As you can see, he was the teacher and mentor who, perhaps more than anyone else, influenced me and provided me, as a foreign student, with a model of how to behave professionally.


Hu’s visit in Urbana

胡 秋 原,a famous writer of his time, and a very close friend of my father since they were young, came to Urbana, Illinois, to visit our home. His daughter, Susan, was studying there as a graduate student, too. We had earlier invited her for Thanksgiving dinner (see first picture).  Her father was one of the famous critics of Chiang’s government. Hu came from the same village as my father. His father started a private school in the village, and my father got the chance to enter that school at about the age of eighteen - thus escaping the poverty of that county. Father was there for about six years, finishing both primary and secondary school during that period. He later took the college entrance exam in Wuhan, and his success in passing that exam terminated his farm life in rural Huang-Pi county.thankgiving-1964

The next two pictures were taken when Hu came for a dinner prepared by Janice in our small apartment. He was on the right side, in the middle surrounded by other family

The  last picture was taken with Mrs. Hu who came later for a separate visit during Christmas time in 1968. Susan Hu was then married to Mike Hsu. Dean and Maria were in the picture too!xmas-68

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An old Christmas Picture!

On this Christmas Eve, I discovered a picture that was taken in 1959! on Christmas Eve!!! It could be the first picture of me singing in a Christmas Cantata at the Truth Lutheran Church. I was one of the Wisemen in this Christmas Story. Jesus’ mother’s voice was sung by Virginia Lau and her future husband, Henry, was the carpenter father. Miss Jones was in the front row, in a Chinese dress and the Norwegian missionary’s wife was the organ player, sorry that I forgot their names. The shepherds’ all had their staffs visible. Our outstanding choir director, Mr. Gao, was as usual not in the picture.xmas-1959

Bergstein in NY

While we were in NY City attending Jean and Sherman’s wedding, we went to visit the Bergsteins in Manhattan. They were the parents of Shari’s husband. At the time, Janice’s sister, Shari, and her family were just moving to live in Vermont. It was their choice of a place to live. We had not had a chance to get up there to see their place yet, and we saw her in-laws place first.beigstein-68-2beigstein-NY-68

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Chicago Trip

It turned out that Janice had some good friends in Chicago. While we were in Urbana, we drove up to visit them once. Jennifer Ketay was married at that time, living in a apartment on the lake front. That night Susan Evans was there with her husband and a boy. We had a great time together, talking about their Pembroke experience. Look how young they were!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Visitors on the Cape

Janice and her siblings grew up spending summers on Cape Cod. After we were married, we did not spent the whole summer there, but we still tried to visit for at least a couple of weeks, as our study time allowed. It was always relaxing and nice. We had a good time there, swimming and clamming!

In 1968, we had some visitors too. They were Ginger and Bill Francis, our close friends from the Illini Folk Dance Society, and Dorothy and Martin Njeuma, who had just been married in Cameroon and had come to the US for a visit. We enjoyed both groups of visitors.


Monday, December 19, 2011

More Weddings

When you are in Graduate school, there are a lot of weddings for that age group. Some you will attend, some you will pass. There was one wedding in 1968 that both Janice and I attended. That was the wedding between Sherman (he was the best man in our wedding) and Jean. They were married in New York. Janice and I drove to Chicago first then flew to New York. Their wedding was Chinese style, held in a restaurant. I served as his best man, too. It was nice and fun! You can see Janice in a Chinese dress!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dean and Maria’s Wedding

June 10th, 1967, Dean and Maria married at the Lutheran Student Center right next to campus on Wright Street in Campaign and the reception was at the YMCA meeting hall across the street from the Center. It was quite a formal affair for both places, as both were used regularly for many student;s informal activities. By this time, color films were used commonly too for pictures, so we had more pictures in color. Two years before when Janice and I got married the professional photographer was using black-white films for our formal pictures. It changed at that time period!

All Dean’s from from nearby and far-away were there, Janice and I were the only relatives. Maria, on the other hand, had a lot of family members there besides friends. It was a glorious sunny early summer day to remember!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rehearsal Dinner for Dean and Maria

June 9th, 1967, one day before Dean and Maria’s wedding, Janice prepared a dinner after the rehearsal. There were more than forty people who came for the rehearsal dinner in our very small apartment unit on Illinois Street. Most guests were Maria’s family members, however the Japanese consulate stationed in Chicago was there as friend of the family. Maria’s father was impressed with Janice cooking. I was, however, worried about the front porch of our apartment, as the building was so old that I was not at all sure that porch could stand the weight. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, we did not have headline news the next day!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


You could say that US was escalating the Vietnam War during 1966 to 1968. Campus demonstrations against the war were a common scene during that period. In the late 1968, the whole Cater Hall Chemistry building windows on the first floor were boarded up by plywood, since these windows would be all broken otherwise by demonstrator's rocks. Why chemistry buildings? Because some chemicals, such as Nippon and agent orange, were used in the war. The chemical company which made the chemicals, named Dow Chemicals, was boycotted by students. The people from this company who came to interview students who were interested in working for the company had to hide their interview places, as some other students would give them a hard time.
Some state legislator, named Callaghan, were trying to stop these campus demonstrations by legislature. He was answered by more demonstrations. The anti-free speech legislature was not successful!!anti-Clavangh-act-3-67-2anti-Clavangh-act-3-67-3

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

Today is Thanksgiving day, 2011. I remembered that Janice started to cook Thanksgiving dinner soon after we got married. Since we usually did not visit Janice’s family at Thanksgiving time, we usually had Thanksgiving dinner at home. We tried to invite some friends to come to eat with us when possible, since there was usually more turkey than a few people could eat. It is the best time to share with your family and friends. The first Thanksgiving Janice and I had together, we were joined by Debbie and Yang. They came from Wyoming to spent the holidays with us. The second Thanksgiving we had Susan Hu, Adriane and Larry Ludwick, and and Janice classmate in the Math Department, another Janice, and Janice’s brother, Greg, with us for the big meal. This is the tradition we have kept up pretty much the same over the years.  thankgiving-1965

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration

In 1968, the Chinese Lunar New Year was on Jan. 31st, which was a Monday. The Chinese Club at the University of Illinois celebrated the Lunar New Year on the Saturday before. Since I was active in the club, which included playing basketball on the weekends and participating in all international celebrations (such as performing at each year at the “International Fair”), I helped to set up quite a number of booths. Some of these sold different food items and some provided word puzzles for people to play. Janice played a Chinese fortunate teller at one booth. She had quite a number of “customers” - it was one of the most popular booths!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Kasses

Bill Kass came to join Professor Peter R. Yankwich’s research group as a post doctorate after he graduated from Arizona. Dr. Yankwich was my thesis advisor. We invited Bill and his wife, Ann, to have dinner at our home. We liked them right away - they were easy-going and fun-loving people with open-minds. Later they learned how to play bridge. They progressed quickly in playing the game and we played quite a bit together. Bill later became a grand master in playing bridge in the USA.kass-68kasses-68

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Holidays

After Janice and I got married, we spent all our Christmas Holidays with Janice’s parents at their Winchester home until Margaret was born in 1969. Decorating the tree a few days before Christmas, opening gifts on Christmas day, and eating a big meal during the middle of Christmas afternoon - these routines became our own family tradition later. Everything else was very relaxed and did not follow any particular pattern. We played games or toys with Jimmy and\or Doug, and one year Dorothy Njeuma was with us. Sometimes, we would go out to have dinner at some restaurants, at least on New Year's Eve. We even went to a dance party once, I remember. Those few years gave both Janice and I a chance to know more about each other. We appreciated them!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Culture Revolution

In 1966, Mao Tze-dong started the culture revolution (we now know) to solidify his political position in China. Most people in the US thought that it only affected China. That was, of course, true for a decade. It changed China in every way you could imagine. It also changed the discussion focus in the US for students like us who had come to the US for educational purposes. Janice and I took one weekend and drove to Chicago to visit my classmates from Taida in Chemistry. George Ting and Chen Ming-yi were my study mates when we were in Taida. At the beginning, we did all the calculus exercises together during the freshmen year. Then we continued to study together until graduation. They were then both enrolled in the Chemistry Department at the University of Chicago. To our great surprise, both of them were much on our left side…  they supported everything Mao did, felt that Mao was the true salvation of China. Janice and I had a hard time there to argue the opposite. There were definitely two distinct camps in the US for us going-aboard students. Below is a picture of George at the U of Chicago, it was quite a weekend for us to be there!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dean and Maria

Dean came to the University of Illinois directly from Taiwan within one week of the day I arrived from Tennessee. It was all new for him. We found a rental room to share and cooked together for our meals. After Janice and I established a new place, he and three other chemists rented a house together. Maria came to our attention shortly after Janice and I got married. During the early part of the winter in 1966 , we had the following picture taken together. I believe that the reason we took the picture was because Dean and Maria were quite serious by then about their future together. And I felt we should have a picture to inform our parents in Taiwan.It was  one of these cold winter days in Illinois. Who would be so brave to go out to have a picture taken on such a day?


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More about Folk Dancing

Janice came to the U of I in 1963, I arrived in '64, we were married in '65, and we moved out of the state in 1969, after the birth of our daughter. During those five years of our life together, folk dancing was a very important part. Not only did we dance every Thursday with our main group, we sometimes went to Scottish Country Dancing on Tuesdays, and we also had special workshops on occasions when special instructors were available. Once in a while on weekends we had potluck dinners, weekend retreats, and some special performances in local schools or churches. Of course, on these occasions, we usually had parties following the events. It was a very active group. We had a wonderful time with the activities and the people involved. The pictures below bring back many great memories!