Fare Forward, Faculty
By Martha Hunter Shepard ’66
The college is indebted to Doug Hatfield, professor of history, and chemistry professor Bob Mortimer, who have enriched the lives of countless students for more than 30 years.
Robert G. Mortimer
Professor of Chemistry
Utah native Bob Mortimer came to Rhodes in 1970 from Indiana University, where he had been an assistant professor of chemistry for six years. He had earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Utah State University, and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology.
Making the transition from those large institutions to a small one presented no problem to Mortimer. For the professor who claims physical chemistry as his area of expertise, the students make all the difference.
“I think the students here are excellent,” he says. “I like teaching the physical chemistry class because it’s small, usually between 5-15 students. It’s an opportunity to get to know the students as people and work with them.”
He writes to many students he’ll never meet. The author of two college textbooks, Mathematics for Physical Chemistry (Macmillan, 1981) and Physical Chemistry (Addison-Wesley, 1993), Mortimer set out in both cases to make complex subjects manageable. The first is a major textbook for a required two-semester junior/senior-level course. Physical chemistry, he says, is the most fundamental of the five major areas of chemistry (the others are organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry and biochemistry). Physical chemistry contains the basic physical theories that underlie these other areas. Like his first book, his second one is clear, complete, minimizing the likelihood that a student would ever have to ask, “Where did that equation or statement come from?”
Future generations of students won’t have to ask that question, either. Mortimer is working on a third edition of his Physical Chemistry text, and hopes to do a third edition of Mathematics for Physical Chemistry. What’s more, he has some ideas for a book for a general chemistry course for non-majors, “so I’m not just going to hang up chemistry and leave it behind,” he says.
By no means will he be working at his computer full time. For one thing, he plans to get into woodworking.
“My dad was a real woodworker. I inherited all of his tools, so I have a complete woodworking shop,” he says.
Travel is high on Mortimer’s agenda. He has five children in four different states, and his wife Ann has seven children in four different states. And of course, there are grandchildren. The Mortimers also enjoy snowshoeing and snowmobiling while visiting his brothers, one in Utah, the other in Idaho. Trips to Europe and the Middle East are in the future.
Retiring, says Mortimer, was a difficult decision for someone who thoroughly enjoys teaching. However, when he and Ann married four years ago, she began asking him about his timetable.
“You have to do it sometime,” he acknowledges, “and this seemed like a good time.”
Douglas W. Hatfield
Professor of History
Doug Hatfield first arrived at Rhodes in January 1965 as a sabbatical replacement for Franklin Wright. Warmly welcomed at the college, he stayed another year, filling in for John Henry Davis. With Davis’s sabbatical at an end, Hatfield and his bride Marion returned to Baylor University, his undergraduate alma mater, where he taught for a year. In 1967, he came back to Rhodes for good. Six years later, the Hatfields had a daughter, Sylvia.
Hatfield grew up in Texas, where his father was with Shell Oil Co. At Baylor, he first thought he’d go to law school. Then, teaching secondary school interested him. Finally, he chose higher education, going on for his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Kentucky.
In history, his concentration has been mainly in 19th-century Europe, with some overlap into the 18th and 20th centuries. He has written several articles for scholarly journals and presented papers at various conferences on 19th-century German Protestantism and the separation of church and state. He’s writing a book on German theologian Willibald Beyschlag about the politics of German Protestantism in the age of Bismarck. He contributed a chapter, “Curriculum Innovation, 1958-1975” in the 1996 book Celebrating the Humanities: A Half-Century of the Search Course at Rhodes College by political science professor Michael Nelson.
Hatfield took on new responsibilities in 1980 when religious studies professor Fred Neal recruited him to teach a section of the interdisciplinary course “The Search for Values in the Light of Western History and Religion.” He was named director of the program in 1985, a post he held until 2000.
“Fred Neal was in charge of the course back then,” said Hatfield. “He approached me about teaching it. I had done guest lectures for the course and was interested in interdisciplinary teaching. It was a turning point in my career. I had been promoted to full professor, completed my term as chair of the history department and had just returned from a sabbatical at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was time for me to make a change.”
While directing the course involved a great deal of administrative work, Hatfield says its emphasis on small discussion groups changed the way he taught his history classes.
“When I first came to Rhodes, the overwhelming emphasis in teaching was a lecture format. There’s been a big change in the way in which classroom organization and presentation have evolved. It’s much more directed now toward discussion and interchange.”
Hatfield says he has always been grateful to the college for giving him a “free hand,” encouraging him to develop and teach courses in areas in which he was interested.
Sometimes that hand won’t let go: Hatfield has been asked to teach Search in the fall and spring terms next year. In addition, he plans to write, do some volunteer work for his church and “enjoy being with my wife after all these years.”