It was a challenging decade for higher education in the United States. During the 1970s, powerful economic, demographic, and political forces dramatically affected most of the nation’s colleges and universities. The Vietnam War continued until 1973, and in its wake the nation faced a huge war-related national debt, recession, and runaway inflation. Compounding the economic problems for all segments of the nation, colleges and universities also grappled with a decline in the number of traditional undergraduate students as the last cohort of children born immediately after World War II moved through the nation’s schools. Institutions of higher education were caught in a cycle of rising prices, national recession, and declining enrollment, and the University of San Francisco, including its sciences programs, was hard-hit by these external forces.
USF’s financial situation was the major issue facing the institution during the 1970s. From the fall of 1970 to the fall of 1976, total USF student enrollment declined almost 15 percent, from 6,830 to 5,818 students. The university’s undergraduate science programs witnessed a modest two percent decline during this period, slipping from 655 to 641 students. Albert Jonsen, S. J., who served as USF’s president from 1969 to 1972, and William McInnes, S.J., who was president from 1972 to 1976, sought to address the mounting financial crisis and enrollment drop at USF. During the 1975–1976 fiscal year, USF faced a deficit of $491,000, with a $2.5 million cumulative debt. In the face of these challenges, Fr. McInnes instituted major budget cuts, wage freezes, and a large tuition increase. He also began the process of reducing the number of staff and faculty. The faculty at USF voted to unionize after initial negotiations with faculty representatives failed, and in 1975, the USF faculty association was born. Faculty unions were also being established at many of the nation’s other colleges and universities that were facing similar economic problems and potential layoffs. At USF, the faculty and staff cuts proposed by Fr. McInnes created major turmoil within the university. In October 1976, at the request of the USF Board of Trustees, Fr. McInnes resigned from the presidency, and he was replaced the next year by John Lo Schiavo, S.J., who began a 14-year tenure as president of USF. By the fall of 1979, two years into Fr. Lo Schiavo’s presidency, overall student enrollment had increased to 6,339, a 9 percent gain from the fall of 1976, although the undergraduate science enrollment during this period remained flat, standing at 637 students in the fall of 1979.
Despite budget limitations, changes in the leadership of the university, and a modest decline in student enrollment, the science programs at USF continued to offer outstanding educational opportunities to students in the 1970s, made possible by stellar faculty. Many of the world-renowned faculty members from the immediate post-WWII era were still teaching at USF in 1970, including Francis Filice and Edward Kessel in biology; Mel Gorman, William Maroney, and Arthur Furst in Chemistry; and Karl Waider in physics (see vignette #21). During the late 1950s and 1960s, a number of new faculty members joined their ranks and established themselves as outstanding teachers and scholars during the 1970s and beyond. They included Robert Schooley and Lucy Treagan in biology; Robert Seiwald and Thomas Gruhn in chemistry; Eugene Benton, Clifton Albergotti, Phillip Applebaum, and Raymond Genolio in physics; Allan Cruse and Millianne Lehmann in mathematics; and James Haag in the new department of computer science (see vignette #24). The 1970s also witnessed the addition of several new science faculty members, who developed stellar careers as teachers, researchers, and role models in providing service to their university and to the community.
Michael Kudlick came to USF in 1974, having previously earned his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, served in the Navy, and worked in the private sector at Shell Development and at the Augmentation Research Center at SRI International. At SRI, Kudlick’s group contributed to the invention of the computer mouse and to the development of computer networking for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, known as ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. At USF, Kudlick rose quickly through the academic ranks to gain tenure and become a full professor of computer science, receiving USF’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1981. As chair of the department of computer science, he led his department through major curriculum changes for both the undergraduate and graduate degree programs. He organized several university-wide events related to computer science and served as the faculty advisor to USF’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. Kudlick retired in 1997 as an emeritus professor of computer science. “Dr. Kudlick taught me how to think logically, to observe, and ask the right questions,” explained Alfred Chuang, class of 1982, founder and president of BEA Systems. Chuang credited Professor Kudlick with helping to prepare him for a career in computer science. In 2001, Chuang donated $2.5 million to USF to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art computer classroom named for Kudlick. “He showed me that the key to the creative process is melding one’s curiosity with an intense drive. He impressed upon me that there are never any short cuts to achievement. I’ve lived by these principles, and I am grateful that Dr. Kudick first modeled them for me.” The Michael Kudlick Computer Science Classroom serves as a lasting memorial to a superb USF professor who died in 2008.
Gary Stevens began his USF career in the biology department in 1970. When Stevens became department chair in 1972, he formed a committee of faculty members and administrators from various departments to advise students who hoped to attend medical, dental, pharmacy, optometry, or veterinarian schools after graduation. During the next several years, the pool of pre-professional students became increasingly diverse, including an ever-greater number of women and minorities. The committee, known as the Pre-Professional Health Committee (PPHC), created a file for each pre-professional student, collected transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation for those files, recommended that students obtain volunteer or job opportunities in health-related fields, wrote a “composite” committee letter of recommendation to professional schools for each qualified student; conducted mock interviews with students to prepare them for their professional school interviews, suggested specific professional schools based on student interests and abilities, and sponsored special events for pre-professional students, including award dinners and mentor nights with USF alumni who had become successful healthcare professionals. Although some organizations at USF, such as the Bio-Chem Club, had functioned from 1923 through the 1950s to promote opportunities for pre-medical students, the PPHC did everything possible to systematically increase the likelihood of student success in gaining admittance to a wide range of health-related professional schools. Professor Stevens stepped down as the PPHC chair in 1995, though he remains an active member of the committee. Alan Ziajka, assistant dean for academic services, chaired the committee from 1995 to 2000, followed by Mary Jane Niles, professor of biology, who currently provides stellar service as the PPHC chair. For decades, the University of San Francisco has significantly outperformed the national average in the number of its undergraduates who are accepted to highly competitive and selective medical and other professional schools. From 2001 to 2013, for example, 65.6 percent of USF students who went through the USF Pre-Professional Health Committee gained admittance to medical schools, whereas nationally, the acceptance rate during this period was only 45.0 percent.
Biology professor Paul Chien, born in Hong Kong, began his career at USF in 1973, after earning his Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine, and obtaining a postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech. He has authored 15 peer-reviewed articles to date on the physiology and ecology of intertidal organisms, the transport of amino acids and metal ions across cell membranes, invertebrate physiology, and toxicology, among other subjects. He has also given many international presentations, including in mainland China, where he has been involved in cooperative research projects, He twice served as biology department chair at USF, and he is well known for taking his students on field trips to nearby marine habitats in San Francisco and Mono Lake in the Sierras, as well as for leading student groups to China.
John Cobley, a native of England, is a professor of chemistry at USF, where he began teaching in 1977 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Bristol and postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, San Francisco, and at the University of Dundee, Scotland. His fields of interest include the integration of ideas across disciplines in the natural sciences and biochemistry. He has published more than 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and he is currently working with some of his undergraduate students on a project concerning the molecular genetics of chromatic adaptation in the Cyanobacterium, Fremyelia diplosiphon. During the course of his career, John Cobley has directed the research of 27 graduate students working on their M.S. degrees in chemistry. To support his students’ work, Cobley has obtained numerous grants, including two grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Many of his undergraduate students were directly involved in his laboratory work and presented their findings at research conferences. In 1994, Professor Cobley won the university’s Distinguished Research Award, and in 2000, he was appointed a Visiting Professor at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris
Kim Summerhays is currently professor of chemistry and computer science at USF, having started his teaching career at USF in 1973. Summerhays received his bachelor’s degree from USF, his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, and a postdoctoral fellowship from the University of California, Irvine. His academic interests include physical chemistry, software engineering, and the history of natural science. His research interests focus on measurement uncertainty, error propagation, and industrial automation. In 2011, he co-authored a paper titled “Applications of Computer Simulation in Coordinate Measuring Uncertainty Evaluation” in the International Journal of Metrology.
Other science faculty members who began their careers at USF during the 1970s and had a lasting impact on the university include R. James Brown, Carol Chihara, Thomas Zavortink, Patricia Schulz, William Jordan, and Theodore Jones. R. James Brown, who started teaching at USF in 1970, won the Distinguished Research Award in 1986 and the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1991. Both awards are given by the USF Faculty Association and the University of San Francisco, and Professor Brown is one of only a handful of USF faculty members to have received both awards; each award is granted to only one faculty member per year. Professor Brown also directed the Institute of Chemical Biology after its founder, Arthur Furst, retired, and he developed the environmental sciences program into a separate department. Brown expanded the environmental management graduate program (founded by Joseph Petulla in the early 1980s in the College of Professional Studies) into Europe, China, and the Philippines, after the program was transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences in 1987. Carol Chihara taught molecular biology and genetics at USF from 1975 to 2001, when she retired as professor emerita of biology. In addition to publishing numerous research papers on topics such as protein expression in Drosophila larvae, she obtained several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, and she established the first molecular biology lab under a grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation. At USF, the Carol Chihara Award is given each fall and spring to three or four undergraduate biology majors who personify academic excellence. Thomas Zavortink taught biology at USF from 1975 to 2001, when he retired as professor emeritus of biology. While at USF, he maintained his reputation as an international authority on mosquitoes, published scores of articles on this specialty and other entomological topics as well, and edited the journal Mosquito Systematics. In 1984, he received the International John N. Belkin Award for furthering mosquito systematics. In 1991, Professor Zavortink was selected for the university’s Distinguished Research Award. Patricia Schulz taught biology at USF from 1978 to 2012, when she retired as professor emerita of biology. Professor Schulz, a specialist in the embryology of flowering plants, conducted research aimed at increasing wheat yields, enabling the grain to grow in areas where it previously could not. Her research, using the techniques of electron microscopy and cytochemistry, focused on the effect of special chemical compounds on wheat pollen formation. In 2003, Professor Schulz won the prestigious USF Sarlo Prize, which recognizes excellence in teaching and research premised on the moral values of the university’s Vision, Mission, and Values Statement. William Jordan began his teaching career at USF in 1973 and retired as professor of biology and environmental science emeritus in 2001. He served for a period as the associate dean of sciences and was one of the founding faculty members of the environmental sciences program at USF. Theodore Jones taught biochemistry at USF for 35 years, starting in 1970, and published on topics such as the membrane protein component of the lactose transport system of Escherichia coli. Jones retired in 2005 as professor emeritus of chemistry.
In 1977, the biology department received a CAUSE (Comprehensive Aid to Undergraduate Science Education) grant from the National Science Foundation, which provided for improvement in the department’s equipment and facilities and enabled the faculty, with the assistance of an outside evaluating firm (Nomos Institute), to conduct an intensive study of the biology curriculum. This study resulted in several major changes, including the introduction of a broader range of specialized courses into the curriculum at the upper-division level.
In the late 1970s, the mathematics department also revised its formerly highly structured course sequence to allow students to take more elective courses at the upper-division level. In addition, the 1970s witnessed the inclusion of human and ethical perspectives in almost all science courses, as well as the development of a larger range of interdisciplinary programs. In a 1980 self-study in preparation for an accreditation visit to the university by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the USF science programs were described as follows:
The primary strength of the science programs is a faculty dedicated to teaching and committed to scholarship. At least six textbooks and twenty lab manuals have been produced by this faculty in the last five years, and more than 115 articles have been published in the educational and research journals of the sciences in this same period. The high overall quality of facilities in Harney Science Center also provides vital support for the academic programs. Equipment available to the various departments has for the most part been adequate to sustain laboratory teaching at a sound level.
During the 1970s, the sciences faculty at USF also continued the Jesuit tradition of service to the community. The self-study prepared for WASC in 1980 underscored that commitment:
The College of Science offers service to the public, especially on matters which contribute to good health and the quality of the environment. Virtually every faculty member has, either individually or jointly, contributed his or her services as expertise, interest, and need dictate. While most of the service activities are local or regional in nature, some are international in scope…. Subjective analysis suggests that Science faculty are very successful in providing a variety of valuable services to the public. Those service offered are consistent with and supportive of the University’s Mission and Goals Statement. The College of Science has a tradition of long-standing commitment to such service activities as: work experience and internship programs, La Raza, federally sponsored Head Start programs, science fairs for pre-college students, and special programs for high school science students.
From the beginning of the science programs at St. Ignatius College in 1863, through the 1970s, and up to and including our own time, the institution’s science faculty members have used their scientific knowledge to make their community and world a better place.
Alan Ziajka, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and University Historian