University of Florida, Gainesville
Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering - University of Florida Polymer Science Program

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 text.

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

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