Featured Alumni Dr. Charles McCormick
Entrance into graduate school during the Vietnam
Era was indeed a gamble. My draft board in Mississippi let
me know right away that I would be in the 26 and under "pool,"
chemistry ambitions or not! So, despite a University of
Florida Teaching Assistantship in the Fall of 1968, a U.S.
army physical and written test in Jacksonville had me marked
1A and suitable for service. Things looked very bleak, but
I was dealt a wonderful "hand" for which I will
always be thankful. My birth date drew a high lottery number
and I joined the Butler Research group.
George may not remember this, but as a distinguished scientist
from Southwest Mississippi, he was invited to Millsaps College
for a seminar (an impressive accomplishment considering
his alma mater, Mississippi College was our chief rival).
Unknown to George when he accepted, he was to speak to the
entire student body at our "required" weekly Chapel
meeting in the Christian Center. Professor Butler somehow
managed to deliver an interesting lecture that was even
tolerated by the preponderance of the audience-theater,
music, liberal arts, sociology, and psychology majors!
My admiration for George Butler began that day during
his Chapel presentation and afterward when he visited us
in our undergraduate research labs. I will be forever grateful
for his mentorship, the opportunities offered us as graduate
students, and the sense of "belonging" that he,
Josephine, and the members of his group brought to us as
our careers unfolded.
And what an exciting time that is, once past Professor
Dick Dresdner's reminders of our inadequate background and
Professor John Baxter's insistence on Saturday morning labs
(as our soccer club had matches then). My classmates Ken
Wagener, Mickey Albert, and Wayne Ruch may even remember
that demanding CY-600 course by Professors Öhrn, Stauffer,
and Battiste or that physical polymer course by Professor
Theo Hogen-Esch, delivered from Professor Herbert Morawetz's
But there were the Apollo missions, the moon landing,
and the John Reeves-to-Carlos Alvarez bombs of a rejuvenated
football team, the concerts by the Four Tops, the Temptations,
the Tams, and the Young Rascals, Gator Growl, the illegal
hippie concerts near Micanopy, the play Hair, Jane Fonda,
and who will forget the annual Spring riots for various
causes or non-causes? And of course, there were always diversions
from those all-night study sessions and extended lab experiments.
George Jr. would often "treat" us on Dad's account
after group meetings at the Rathskellar, Chubby Checker
often appearing. Jim Schwietert would lead us in search
of South Florida reptiles that often ended up in our Flavet
apartments or maybe in Kiyo's lab desk. Most Butler students
played on rival chemistry intramural teams, the Chemcats
and Free Radicals. Richard Turner, an All American Baseball
player, led most of the sports. Postdocs Kiyo Fujimori (Japan)
and Bruno Zeegers (Belgium) and George Corfield (England)
were also active. We managed to win several University of
Florida competitions in softball, basketball, bowling, tennis,
volleyball, and soccer. And of course there was always water
skiing at Lake Wauburg or at George's lake at Interlachen.
As I reflect back on my Florida experience, I can only
think that the leadership from George and his senior students
and postdocs helped us not only in our chemistry courses
and research, but also in development of social skills that
have molded our careers. Postdocs Larry Gilbault, Kiyo Fujimori,
George Corfield, Bruno Zeegers, Chester Wu and Richard Veazey
along with senior grad students Tom Smith, Jim Rigsby, and
Richard Turner were always quick to help Ken, Mickey, Grady
(Williams), Wayne, Bill (Worsley) and me. Their enthusiasm,
industriousness, integrity, and demand for excellence were
"catching." I think it wonderful that the Butlers
with their gifts to the University of Florida have created
a living legacy through the internationally recognized activities
of the George and Josephine Butler Polymer Research Laboratory.
For that and for their other direct and indirect contributions
to the lives of their students, we as former members of
the Butler Research Group remain in their debt.
Charles L. McCormick, III, a native of Mississippi, received
his B. S. degree in Chemistry in 1968 from Millsaps College
and his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1973. After
one year at American Enka Company, part of Akzo Nobel in Asheville,
N.C., he joined the faculty at the University of Southern
Mississippi where he is now Bennett Distinguished Research
Professor in Polymer Science and in Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Dr. McCormick has been a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University
and at the Royal Institute (Sweden). He currently directs
a group of twelve students, has graduated 43 Ph.D.'s and has
published over 200 manuscripts in the areas of synthetic polymer
chemistry, controlled free radical polymerization, and responsive
water-soluble polymers and biopolymers. Professor McCormick,
his wife Kathleen, and son Mac are residents of the Lake Serene
area near Hattiesburg. Daughters Lauri McDonald (Dallas, TX)
and Kelli Landrum (Stringer, MS) teach high school chemistry
and special education.
Content Updated: 2009