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

   Caserio, Roberts & Houk
  Marjorie Caserio, Jack Roberts, and Ken Houk

John D. ("Jack") Roberts has been 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.

Sadly, Jack passed away on October 29, 2016. He was 98, but he was still mentally strong, as we will always remember him. There will be a memorial tribute honoring his remarklable accomplishments through his life. No date has been determined yet. However, an important event will take place at Caltech on June 7, 2017, which will feature the Caltech Roberts Lecture given by Ken Houk, Winstein Professor of Chemistry at UCLA. This talk will pay tribute to Roberts' many contributions to Organic Chemistry as an educator and researcher, and describe research building on Jack's discoveries.

We seek $1 million in philanthropic gifts to establish the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry.
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 Roberts Lecture on May 19, 2016. The aim was to keep Jack's contributions to chemistry alive in the minds of faculty and students, now and in the future. Ken was also 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. We are pleased to tell you that the occasion heralded the announcement that the UCLA department has pledged $500,000 towards the endowment as a match for an equal amount pledged by other donors. Based on the funds already raised, the endowment needs approximately $375,000 to reach the one million mark. We are hopeful to reach this goal within the next few months. We see this as feasible with a renewed effort to seek donations, however large or small.
Help us add this crowning honor by supporting the creation of the
John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry. Click here to contribute.

At last count, Jack published over 500 scientific papers, mostly in the field of Physical Organic Chemistry. He explored the hidden pathways of organic reactions - how and why reactants arrive at their products, what intermediates are involved, and how the process is influenced by external conditions (catalysts, solvent, temperature, electromagnetic energy, even reactant concentrations). The physical component has a focus on the relationship between molecular structure and reactivity through quantitative experimental and theoretical studies (reaction rates, substituent effects, spectroscopic analysis, molecular orbital theory).

There is not one of these areas of physical organic chemistry in which Jack Roberts has not had a major impact. The long list of honors and awards includes the following: Every major award in organic chemistry offered through the American Chemical Society, namely: The Award in Pure Chemistry (1954); The Roger Adams Award (1967); The James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry (1979); The Priestley Medal (1987); and The Arthur C. Cope Award (1994). The National Academy of Sciences honored him with the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences (1999) and the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society (2009). He received The National Medal of Science and The Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, both in 1990; The Glenn T. Seaborg Medal (1991); and The Chemical Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Chemists (1994). In 1972, he was appointed Institute Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and, in 1988, Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus. In 2013, The American Institute of Chemists bestowed their highest honor, the Gold Medal Award, in partnership with the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Many thanks to the following supporters who have contributed to
the John D. Roberts Endowed Term Chair in Chemistry:
Bruce & Kathy Armbruster
David & Lucy Eisenberg
John T. Gerig
Gordon K. Goldman
Ken Houk & Robin Garrell
Hanspeter & Eva Huber
Keiko & Hiroo Kanamori
Chuck & Carolyn Knobler
Robert Lichter
Frank & Clelia Mallory
Oren & Elizabeth Miller
Dinshaw Patel
Charles & Marilyn Perrin
Margaret & George Petersson
Francis Petracek
David & Carlotta Schuster
Andrew Streitwieser
Dean Tantillo
University Science Books
Joan Valentine & Andrew Clarke
Curtice Wong
Todd & Melissa Yeates
Shijun Zheng

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

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.