Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Idaho’s first Ph.D. Degrees
Ph.D. Zoology 1963
Dissertation: A Morphological and Ecological Comparison of Two Populations of Ascaphus truei Stejneger
After receiving his degree at Idaho in zoology, Dean Metter joined the biology faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he taught zoology, comparative anatomy, evolution, and herpetology. Dr. Metter was a co-founder of the Bobby Witcher Society, and helped create a scholarship named after the colorful herpetologist renowned for his carefree handling of venomous snakes. After his death, the society renamed the scholarship as the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. In honor of his work, he has a subspecies of reptile named after him. Dr. Metter passed away in 2001.
The May 2013 commencement exercises took on special significance as they marked the 50th anniversary of the first Ph.D. degrees awarded by the University of Idaho. In 1962 the university awarded its first doctorate, a Doctor of Education degree, and the first Doctor of Philosophy degrees were awarded the next year, all in science disciplines. The first Ph.D.s were awarded in 1963 to Newman H. Fisher (Mathematics), Daniel E. George (Chemistry), Bruce D. Gesner (Chemistry), Richard A. Hermens (Chemistry), and Dean E. Metter (Zoology).
Ph.D. Mathematics, 1963
Dissertation: Stability and Periodicity Properties of the Space Sled
Newman Fisher was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He attended San Francisco Community College and the University of California at Berkeley, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. He took a position at NASA Ames and then was drafted into the Army in 1955 and spent close to two years at the Ballistics Research Laboratory of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. After leaving the service he resumed his education at Stanford University and accepted a position as instructor in mathematics at San Francisco State College.
He read of the University of Idaho beginning a new Ph.D. program and in correspondence was told that past coursework would be counted towards the degree and was also offered a teaching position, so he headed to Moscow in August of 1959.
Dr. Fisher remembers being warmly accepted at the University - students, faculty and administrators were friendly and helpful. Classes were challenging and the professors were fine teachers. He wrote his thesis under the direction of Professor Georg Aumann, visiting from Munich, Germany, and Hans Sagan, and completed his Ph.D. work in the summer of 1962.
Following completion of his degree, he returned to San Francisco State, where he served on the faculty of the Math Department, and retired as a full professor with tenure in 2002. He served as department chair for 22 years and as associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering for six years.
Dr. Fisher and his wife Neah live in San Francisco. They have one son, and enjoy travel, good food, and making wine.
Ph.D. Chemistry 1963
Dissertation: Rearrangements in the Reaction of Some Bicyclic Chlorides with Sodium
Daniel George grew up near Idaho Falls and earned his B.S. in chemistry at Idaho in 1956. After completing his degree, he worked for Monsanto and then served in the military in Japan, where he met his wife. He was not planning to go to grad school, but received a call from his undergraduate advisor encouraging him to apply for a National Defense Act Fellowship. He returned to Idaho with the fellowship, and completed work for his degree with Peter Freeman as major professor.
Dr. George spent his career as a research scientist with DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. He is now retired, and he and his wife Sachiko live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and have two children.
Ph.D. Chemistry, 1963
Dissertation: The Mechanism of Carbene Eliminations
Bruce Gesner earned his bachelor’s degree at the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River, Massachusetts, which would later become the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. After taking the GRE in chemistry, the University of Idaho offered him a three-year National Defense Act Fellowship. He reports that he thought the new Ph.D. program at Idaho was a wonderful opportunity, with new professors with current thinking and plenty of interaction with faculty.
Peter Freeman was his major professor, and he also remembers Professors Renfrew, Shreeve, Cone, and Grieb. After completing his degree at Idaho, Dr. Gesner spent 24 years at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill and Whippany, New Jersey, followed by 5 years with the Pacific Bell Telephone Company. He spent the rest of his career consulting for Telecom Australia. He retired in 2002 and now tends to a small commercial real estate venture with his son in Sacramento.
Dr. Gesner and his wife, Phyllis Whittiker, reside in Reno. They have seven children, sixteen grandchildren, and twelve great grandchildren. Dr. Gesner is an avid sports fan with a keen eye on football and hockey. His favorite hobby is collecting movies.
Ph.D. Chemistry 1963
Dissertation: The Kinetics and Mechanism of the Reaction Between Peroxodisulfate Ion and Benzoic Acid
Richard Hermens was born and raised in the small community of Verboort, Oregon, located west of Portland. He attended the University of Portland for one year and then transferred to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, and received his B.S. there in 1957. He earned his master’s degree at Oregon State in 1960.
At Idaho, he remembers both the university and Moscow being very friendly. Faculty members were always available to help. His faculty advisor was Professor William Cone. Dr. Hermens served as an instructor in the department the final year of his program.
After graduation, he was offered a position as assistant professor of chemistry at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. After three years there, he and his wife decided to return to the west and moved to La Grande, Oregon, where he was on the faculty at Eastern Oregon University from 1966 through his retirement in 2001. After his retirement, Jean’ne Shreeve asked Dr. Hermens if he would help on her EPSCoR grant – he spent two years traveling throughout Idaho teaching science to elementary students. In that time he went to 55 elementary schools and helped 12,000 students with the science of chemistry and physics.
Dr. Hermens and six other Ph.D.s started MicroLab, a business making analytical equipment for chemistry labs. He has two patents and one pending. Dr. Hermens received the University of Idaho Silver and Gold Award in 2003 and was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2012.
Dr. Hermens and his wife Maxine live in La Grande. Mrs. Hermens is an Idaho alumna with a B.S. degree in elementary education. They have four children and nine grandchildren. Dr. Hermens is interested in photography and coauthored a book of photos entitled La Grande 1884 to 1984.