Organic chemist Clayton H. Heathcock named Dean of College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Clayton H. Heathcock, a prominent organic chemist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has been named dean of the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Heathcock, a professor and former chair of the campus's chemistry department, succeeded Alexis T. Bell on Aug. 1. Bell, now on sabbatical, will return to teaching and research at UC Berkeley next year.

"The chancellor and I are very excited to be working with a scientist of the stature and vision of Professor Heathcock," said UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol T. Christ. "He promises to offer outstanding leadership to the college at a crucial point in its history."

Heathcock, who joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1964, served as vice chairman of the Department of Chemistry from 1972 through 1977 and as chairman from 1986 through 1989. Most recently, he has been chairing the college's committee to design a space plan that will accommodate research and teaching activities during the upcoming period of seismic strengthening of college buildings.

Born in Texas, Heathcock received his BS degree from Abilene Christian College in 1958 and his PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1963. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University before moving to UC Berkeley. His research has been concerned with developing strategies for streamlining the synthesis of complex, naturally occurring compounds.

"A particularly powerful strategy," he said, "is 'biomimetic synthesis,' in which we guess how nature might assemble a particular molecule and then try to mimic this hypothetical route in the laboratory."

Heathcock's work in the total synthesis of natural products and the development of new synthetic methodology has been of major interest to the pharmaceutical industry as well as to the international academic community. His many awards include the American Chemical Society's Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award; election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Prelog Medal of the ETH in Zurich; and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Heathcock is completing 10 years as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, and also serves on the Board of Directors of Organic Syntheses.

He said he hopes "to lead the college through the seismic repair era in such a way that our teaching mission and ongoing research activities are not disrupted. My long-term goal is to provide an intellectual and physical environment that will permit both departments - chemical engineering and chemistry - to prosper and continue to compete at the very top of their peer groups.

"To achieve this goal it will be necessary for us to raise substantial sums from private donors over the next five years."

Particular needs, he said, include laboratory renovations, endowments for chairs, support for the Chemistry Library and a College of Chemistry endowment that will provide money for important activities such as matching funds for instrument grants and startup funds for new faculty hires.

Bell, Heathcock's predecessor, was appointed dean in 1994. Upon stepping down, he will return to numerous professional commitments, including the chairmanship of the Council for Chemical Research in the year 2000. His accomplishments included the completion of Tan Kah Kee Hall, substantial renovations to the college's older research laboratories, the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty, the creation of three new centers, the institution of a college-wide Advisory Board and improvements in the undergraduate advising program.

"It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as dean of the college for the past five years," Bell said. "Notwithstanding the fiscal constraints imposed by state budgets, the college has maintained, in my opinion, its status as the premier place for teaching and research in chemistry and chemical engineering. The college's ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty is a tribute to the strength of our unit and its intellectual vitality."

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