Be it physical, inorganic or general, Rudolph's teaching career at Adams State leaves positive reaction

(05-29-2008)

A definition for chemistry - the elements of a complex entity and their interrelationship - can be used to describe Adams State College chemistry professor, Dr. Neil Rudolph's, career of 31 years. Rudolph taught a variety of math and science, enjoys singing, is an active member of his church, and is involved in his community. His commitment to his profession and students and his community leaves a lasting impression on his colleagues and Adams State alumni.

"Neil is unquestionably dedicated to our students, but more than that, he is a tremendous human being," said Dr. Matt Nehring, chair of the chemistry, physics, and computer science department.

Rudolph came to Adams State before he finished his dissertation. He said he and his wife, Elise, made the move when their daughters were one-month and eighteen-months-old. "We loaded our VW Bus and drove down and moved into student housing," Rudolph said. "I was not quite sure what I wanted to do with my doctorate and found I enjoyed teaching."

Successful chemistry alumni

Emeritus professor of chemistry, Dr. Kay Watkins, worked with Rudolph for many years, including 14 years as dean of the School of Science and Technology. "Neil took a sincere interest in his students. Neil was a good teacher and several students who took physical chemistry from him have very successful careers in science."

Dr. David E. Clemmer, class of '87, Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, took three classes with Rudolph including physical chemistry, the study of how physical interactions within and between molecules influences their reactivity. "As a teacher, Neil was very understated - sometimes shy in expressing his ideas," Clemmer said. "But, in his class - he was inspiring. We simply loved him. There were four students (myself, Bryan Carr, Scott Brendecke and David Van Pelt) in physical chemistry. All of us went to graduate school and I believe three of us wound up receiving Ph.D.s in chemistry, with one medical doctor."

"Neil was one of my favorite instructors at Adams State," said Van Pelt, "He is a very patient man with a great enthusiasm for science that makes learning fun, and was very generous with the time he gave to his students."

Man of convictions

Although Adams State was his initiation into higher education, his first experience teaching was in Africa between completing his master's and beginning his Ph.D. work. He, and his newly wedded wife, Elise, taught secondary school in Sierra Leone, for three years. His service in Africa was an end result of refusing induction into the military during the Vietnam War. His parole officer suggested he go though his church and find something overseas to fulfill the conditions of his sentence. "I realized I could not shoot anyone, in any war," Rudolph said. "I am a pacifist." After the war, President Gerald Ford pardoned all who avoided military service by refusing induction or neglecting to appear before the military for service.

"Neil is a person who stand-up for what he believes," Watkins said. "On several occasions he came to the defense of a staff member in other departments when he believed they were being treated unfairly."

Rudolph took two year-long sabbaticals during his tenure, at the University of Maryland and Brookhaven National labs and he did summer research for two summers at Aims Research Center in California.

"Neil is a person who is good at figuring things out and then doing them on his own," Watkins said.

Rudolph said he loves to sing and is a member of the Adams State Community choir, the church choir, and a barbershop quartet, now defunct. Dr. Christopher Jackson was the choir director for the First United Methodist Church choir and in Valley Community Chorus. "I have really enjoyed having Neil in both," he said. "Neil is a fine singer, and very dependable and loyal. He has made a really excellent contribution to both groups."

Outstanding mentor

This year, Rudolph received the Associated Students and Faculty Excellence in Student Academic Advisement Award. He was nominated by Kamal Ararso and Erika McNulty. Ararso, class of '09, is originally from Ethopia. When he was a freshman, Ararso said he was having a difficult time and was ready to go back home, to Denver. Rudolph convinced him to stay despite Ararso's frustration with the language. "Dr. Rudolph told me, 'you don't want to do this,' he told me what real life is, he told me, 'you deserve more.'"

McNulty graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry/biochemistry. She said Rudolph made her physical chemistry class "entertaining." The class size was small. "You always wanted to pay attention to what he said," McNulty said. "He stood out in a classroom. He is a great advisor, professor and influence."

Outside of campus, the Rudolphs are committed to giving back to their community. Their faith and life-viewpoint has motivated their community support. Their home was used as a safe house for the battered women's shelter, Tu Casa; they helped establish the Food Coop, and have served on the board at various times; they have helped build houses through Habitat For Humanity; were committed to the Christian Community Services, which started many non-profit organizations in Alamosa; and volunteer for the homeless shelter, La Puente. The Rudolphs have hosted foreign exchange students from many countries.

"We feel privileged to have our lifestyle and believe with that comes responsibility to those not as fortunate," Rudolph said.

This belief transfers from community to campus. "I have traveled three continents," Araso said. "Dr. Rudolph is one of the best I have met in my entire life."

The influence Rudolph has on his students continues post-graduation. Dr. Matthew J. Price, graduate of 1995, is now an assistant professor of organic and biochemistry at California University of Pennsylvania. "I really model my teaching philosophy around the examples that I found at Adams State," he said. "I am also very active in my church and am constantly finding ways to help in my community because of the example Dr. Rudolph planted in my mind and heart."

Rudolph said: "It has been my privilege to have taught wonderful students. I will miss them, most of all. I will also greatly miss working with the faculty and staff at Adams State."

"As a member of the School of Science and Technology, Neil worked well with other members of his department and the school," Watkins said. "His wide variety of interests and talents should serve him well in his retirement."

Rudolph and Elise have two married daughters and 3 grandchildren. He said he is looking forward to finishing house-remodel and yard and garden projects. "I want to continue with most of the involvements in the community but with more time to put into them," Rudolph said. "I plan to travel and spend more time with grandchildren, family and friends."

By Linda Relyea