To honor Jack Roberts, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and UCLA have established the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry, for which we are currently fundraising.
It is our goal to honor and perpetuate Jack Roberts' legacy at UCLA and his extraordinary career at Caltech. This Chair recognizes the tremendous impact that he and his group had on the field and on countless lives in the scientific community. His name will be connected in perpetuity with the campus where he earned his degrees and where he was first inspired to pursue a career in chemistry

John D. ("Jack") Roberts was one of the most influential chemists of the last 75 years, and it all started at UCLA! He received the BA degree in 1941 and the PhD in 1944 (with William G. Young as research advisor); he continued at UCLA as an Instructor, 1944-45, until moving to Harvard on a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Bartlett. Jack has had a long career at Caltech, not only doing great research and leading the organic chemical world into the use of quantum theory, NMR, and isotope effects to explore organic reaction mechanisms, but also attracting some of the best students and postdocs to Caltech to work with him. He also served Caltech in a variety of leadership roles that had a great impact on that University and on the chemical world as well. Throughout, he remained a great friend and collaborator to UCLA. He has been honored by UCLA with the UCLA Alumni Achievement Award in 1967 and the Seaborg Medal from UCLA in 1991.

  At the May 19, 2016 event - Miguel Garcia-Garibay, Marjorie Caserio, Jack Roberts, and Ken Houk

On May 19, 2016, the signature event announcing the fund-raising effort for the Roberts Chair was held in conjunction with the inaugural lecture for the new biennial lectureship at UCLA chemistry department known as The John D. Roberts Lecture. The aim of the lecture is to keep Jack's contributions to chemistry alive in the minds of faculty and students, now and in the future. Professor Ken Houk was the founding speaker on this occasion and fittingly spoke about Jack's work over the years and its impact on the chemical sciences. Jack was present at this event and was duly celebrated. It is fair to say that his appreciation for the widespread recognition was deeply sincere. Marjorie Caserio, Chancellor Emerita of UC San Diego and former member of the Roberts group at Caltech, also spoke about the Roberts group and Jack's influence on so many chemists.

Sadly, Jack passed away on October 29, 2016. He was 98, but he was still mentally strong, as we will always remember him. On June 7, 2017, Professor Ken Houk, Winstein Professor of Chemistry at UCLA, gave the Caltech Roberts Lecture. Houk paid tribute to Roberts' many contributions to Organic Chemistry as an educator and researcher, and he described research building on Jack's discoveries.

The second John D. Roberts Lecture will take place on Thursday, October 18, 2018, at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute with lectures by Professors George Whitesides (Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard) and David Schuster (Professor Emeritus, New York University). The event will begin with a lecture by Whitesides followed by remarks about Roberts and his group by Schuster. A reception and dinner will follow at the UCLA Faculty Center California patio and dining room at which accomplished pianist Schuster will perform a short piano concert and tribute to Roberts.

Many thanks to the following supporters who have contributed
to the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry:

UCLA Jung-Xtandi Funds
Michael and Alice Jung
John P. Roberts
Kendall Houk
Allen Roberts
Anne Roberts
Don and Barbara Roberts
Frank and Sally Mallory
George and Barbara Whitesides
Bruce & Kathy Armbruster
Marjorie & Frederick Caserio
David & Lucy Eisenberg
John T. Gerig
Gordon K. Goldman
Robin Garrell
Hanspeter & Eva Huber
Keiko & Hiroo Kanamori
Chuck & Carolyn Knobler
Robert Lichter
Frank & Clelia Mallory
Oren & Elizabeth Miller
Joseph O'Connor & Barbara Chinn
Dinshaw Patel
Charles & Marilyn Perrin
Margaret & George Petersson
Francis Petracek
Michael H. Sekera
David & Carlotta Schuster
Richard Schwartz
Andrew Streitwieser, Jr.
Dean J. Tantillo
University Science Books
Joan Valentine & Andrew Clarke
Curtice Wong
Todd & Melissa Yeates
Shijun Zheng

Jack as a child  
Demonstrating an early interest in exploring the radio frequency spectrum, circa 1922.
Jack in lecturing in 1962  
Lecturing on Huckel molecular orbital
theory in Munich in 1962.
Jack at Varian DFS NMR
At the Varian DFS NMR
spectrometer in 1967.
Jack with Spencer Foote  
Spencer Foote, grandson of UCLA Professor Chris Foote, with Jack at the 2015 Foote Symposium dinner.
Jack with Miguel Garcia-Garibay  
UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair Miguel Garcia-Garibay with Jack at the 2014 Winstein Lecture.
Jack with graduate student
Jack with graduate student Juno Van Valkenburgh at the 2015 Foote Symposium poster session.

For more information, please contact Professor Ken Houk,, 310-206-0515.