Caltech educator feted
By Linda LaRoche
Staff Writer, Society/Celebrations/Fundraisers
There are different kinds of professors at Caltech some teach the thrill of discovery and some demonstrate a passion for it. Ahmed Zewail, professor of physics does both even though his hands are in everything scientific but he never leaves fingerprints.
Two months ago Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contributions in viewing chemical reactions at the atomic level. This application takes place with state of the art lasers, enabling scientists to study how atoms move inside a molecule -- a very, very tiny area. Zewail pioneered this field known as "femtochemistry."
On Jan. 28 more than 250 guests filled the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel at a Black-Tie Dinner sponsored by The Associates, a support group for Caltech, honoring Zewail -- its 28th Nobel Prize Winner.
A native of Egypt Zewail has received international awards from around the globe. He said it was the challenges he faced in life that lead to his Nobel.
Zewail's eyes and mannerisms project an enthusiasm for projects, plans and the following year. Avoiding auspicious technical terms he said "The method is super fast, it will serve as a gateway for other sciences."
Standing next to him was his wife Dema, who conjures an image of Queen Nefretiti, regal, delicate and poised. Wearing a velvet empire gown with a black bodice and grey skirt adorned by only her bisque neck offset by a Louise Brooks bob.
Easy going, bordering on serene, she softly stated "It's been a very busy time for us."
As the dinner bells rang fishtail trains swept into the Viennese room, a salon with accents of green and gold with vaulted oval ceilings, gold crown moldings and Austrian crystal chandeliers. Low floral arrangements in sultry fuschia to baby pink at the dinner table.
Blue-eyed Nancy Glanville, mother of John Glanville, President of the Associates epitomized high fashion in a contrasting mint green crepe gown.
An artful mix of academics and other special guests included Dr. Rudy Marcus, winner of the 1992 Nobel prize in Chemistry, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and his wife Claire, Adelaide and Alexander Hixon, William and Inez Pickering, Edith and Jack Roberts, Warren and Katherine Schlinger, Betty and Frank Whiting, Kim Caldwell, Olin Barnett, Kathryn Downing and Gerald Flake, Paul and Georgianna Erskine, William and Sally Hurt and Her Excellency Hagar Islambouly, the Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Weaving an entertaining arabesque tale of talent and the humanities, Islambouly praised Zewail and proudly recalled Egypt's other two laureates: statesman Anwar Sadat, and author Naguib Mahfouz.
A beautiful video presentation traced the scientific discoveries of Egypt and the United States. It used the desert sounds of a bansuri echoing the route of Egypt's past scientific discoveries and moved to the music of Vivaldi's four seasons to announce the future of American technological developments.
Traveling away from the land of magic and intrigue Jack Roberts at the podium said, "Ahmed is a mover and a shaker, he gets things done, and has a genius for constructing."
Zewail jokingly said "I've never ceased being a seeker, and now as a laureate, I'm expected to know everything on many subjects." Although the prospect of that may be inaccurate, his natural genteel air gives the impression of having all the answers.
A classic cuisine fit for a Pharoah was served. The menu consisted of lobster salad, roasted rack of lamb with morels topped with a rosemary thyme sauce, white truffle mashed potatoes, asparagus and stewed tomatoes.
A dynamite orchestra followed featuring the music of Art Deco and His Society Orchestra with swing dancing til midnight.