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Alumni Couples Recall Certain Symbiosis and Chemistry at UT

Alumni Couples Recall Certain Symbiosis and Chemistry at UT

For many alumni, memories of their favorite professors or funny stories from long hours in the lab make the Forty Acres a special place to remember. Others recall falling in love among the beakers, telescopes, supercomputers and math study groups here in the heart of campus.

Attendees at Explore UT in 2011.

For Valentine's Day, we checked in on the symbiosis some of our CNS graduates remember from any of the 17 buildings here on campus (as well as spots beyond campus, like our McDonald Observatory in West Texas). We learned that a very special sense of place permeates those memories for our alumni couples.

Just ahead of one recent Valentine's Day, UT Austin asked for similar stories from Longhorn lovebirds on Facebook. Here's a sampling of the response:

  • "I took her on the perfect date to the Painter Hall telescope."
  • "We met in a differential equations class in RLM." (Differential equations are, after all, the most romantic kind.)
  • "We saw stars at the McDonald Observatory."
  • "We met in the Gates Dell Complex next to a machine called 'Date.'"

Drs. Chad Dieterichs and Sonja Cortez Dietrichs graduated from the college in 1995.

The real impetus for our writing this post was a trend we noticed when we began our community giving campaign for Welch Hall.

Turns out, there's a history of some chemistry getting started in our chemistry building.

When we asked for people's memories of Welch Hall, many volunteered stories about being lab partners there.

Medical doctors and parents of three, Sonja Cortez Dieterichs (BA, Biology, '95) and Chad P. Dieterichs (BS, Zoology, '95) recall a special place for Welch in their history:

"We met in Welch Hall on Aug. 28, 1992 for organic chemistry lab. We had to be lab partners due to our last names. We were friends for a year, then dated through undergrad and four years of medical school at UTMB-Galveston. We married in 2001 and did the Texas Fight song and Wabash with my wedding party. We moved back in 2005 and have called Austin our home ever since. We've strolled through our old stomping grounds and are season ticket holders. We attend every UT home game."

Another physician pairing, Claudia (BS, Chemistry, '73) and Jim (BS, Chemistry, '72) Richter met taking advanced inorganic chemistry together in Welch Hall in 1972:

"Jim asked me to be his lab partner in the course lab and we spent the semester making titanium dichloride dipentadiene. I recall spending hours 'drying' reagents because it was unstable in water. We did have an exciting adventure making ammonium sulfide by bubbling gaseous ammonia and hydrogen sulfide under anhydrous ether. The ammonia tank was on the other side of the lab from the hood and the gas reached the hood through a series of plastic tubing/glass pipette connections taped to the ceiling. One of the connections came loose, requiring the emptying of Welch Hall, although we were unaware since we were under the hood! (This was before OSHA regulations!)… We never dated that year. However, when I arrived at Southwestern Medical School where he was a second year medical student, he promptly called and asked me out. We have been inseparable since then."

Most remarkable was Rice University professor of biosciences, Dr. Kathleen Matthews' (BS, Chemistry, '66) multi-generational story about Welch Hall:

"My father was William Shive, who pursued his PhD work in the old chemistry building, Welch Hall, and that was where he met my mother. They married and ultimately returned to Austin when my father became a chemistry faculty member in the mid-1940s, joining his mentor and colleague Roger Williams as early pioneers in biochemistry at UT performing seminal work on the B vitamins. My early memories are of times in the library stacks which I loved … Then I met my husband in Welch Hall in a class. We were lab partners and once we started dating, the rest was history. It's safe to say, chemistry runs in our family."

Peggy and Robert Wetegrove got their BAs in microbiology in 1970.

Peggy and Robert Wetegrove both received BAs in microbiology in 1970, and Peggy recalls:

"We met in our senior year. He was a grader in a public health course in basic immunology that I was taking for my microbiology degree. We were learning – it was almost like CSI in the early days – how to analyze bloodstains and how to differentiate if they were human or animal and doing work that they probably wouldn't allow students to do now. He was our grader and we were learning how to use autoclaves and were wrapping up petri dishes in brown paper and string to take to the autoclave to sterilize them. He came up to me as I was wrapping up these petri dishes. I had seen him walking down the hall ... but I had never spoken to him. He came up to me and his first words to me were, 'About to get things wrapped up?' Two weeks later he asked me to marry him."

There's an enduring history to special places on campus where alumni meet, including Welch Hall. To learn more about our historic Welch Hall and to support our community crowdfunding campaign with a donation of as little as $100 that will lead to a display for your name in the building, visit NewWelchHall.utexas.edu.

And watch our video to learn more about the history and future of UT Austin's heart of campus:

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