12:00 AM

Ohio State honors four at spring 2006 commencement

COLUMBUS - Four individuals will be honored at Ohio State University's spring 2006 commencement for their contributions to society and academics, and their dedication to the university. Ceremonies begin at 1 p.m. Sunday (6/11), in Ohio Stadium.

Honorary doctorates will be presented to two Nobel laureates: Alan J. Heeger, professor of physics and materials (engineering) at the University of California at Santa Barbara; and Alan G. MacDiarmid, professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Distinguished Service Awards will be presented to Barbara K. Fergus (43017), owner/partner of Midwestern Auto Group of Dublin; and Ernest W. Johnson (43220), professor emeritus in the Department of Physical Medicine.

Alan J. Heeger, Doctor of Science

Alan J. Heeger, a Nobel laureate, is professor of physics and professor of materials (engineering) at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

A native of Iowa, Heeger received his B.S. with high distinction in mathematics and physics in 1957 from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. in 1961 from the University of California at Berkeley. He began his academic career in 1962 at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming full professor in 1967 and serving as director of the university's Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter from 1974 to 1981.

While at the University of Pennsylvania, he began working with Alan MacDiarmid, a professor of chemistry at Penn, and Hideki Shirakawa, a visiting scientist from Japan. The three researchers discovered that plastics can be made to conduct electricity, creating a completely new approach to science and technology. The group's discovery resulted in their being awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

In 1982, Heeger joined the faculty at the University of California at Santa Barbara where he served as director of the university's Institute for Polymers and Organic Solids from 1982 to 1999. With his colleagues at UCSB, he is doing pioneering research in the area of highly conductive polymer solids. The group's current mission is to create a new generation of low-cost solar cells ready for commercialization.

Heeger has long been aware of the potential for technology transfer of electronic polymers to the market place, and in 1990 he founded UNIAX Corporation in order to focus on technological applications. UNIAX has since been sold to a major corporation, and Professor Heeger serves as chief scientist and chair of the board. He continues to research areas touching on medicine and health care.

He has more than 750 scholarly publications and more than 50 patents to his ame. His many honors include the Oliver Buckley Prize for Condensed Matter Physics in 1983, the 1989 John Scott Award, and the Balzan Prize for Science of New Materials in 1995. In 2001 he delivered The Ohio State University Department of Physics Alpheus Smith Lecture.

Alan G. MacDiarmid, Doctor of Science

Nobel laureate Alan G. MacDiarmid holds the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology and is professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition, he holds the Blanchard Chair in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and has been appointed professor of chemistry at Jilin University in Changchun, China.

A native of New Zealand, MacDiarmid studied at the University of New Zealand before coming to the University of Wisconsin in 1950 on a Fulbright Fellowship. He received his Ph.D. at Wisconsin and did further study at the University of Cambridge, U.K., before joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1955, where he was named Blanchard Professor of Chemistry in 1988. He began his concurrent appointment at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2004.

During the 1970s, he began collaborative research with Alan Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa at Penn, resulting in the historic discovery of metallic conductivity in an organic polymer and establishing the field of electronic polymers or plastics. In 2000, these collaborators received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their pioneering research.

MacDiarmid's scientific interests are centered around technologically important conducting polymers and their use in conducting polymer nanofibers, and he is investigating inexpensive, disposable plastic and paper electronic circuits. He has recently expanded his activities to include carbon nanotubes as possible analogs of conducting polymers. His most recent research has created electronic organic fibers with a diameter of ~ 4 nanometers. His objective is to combine the fields of electronic organic polymers and electronic nanofibers to develop a new field of "nanoelectronics."

MacDiarmid is the author or coauthor of more than 600 research papers and approximately 25 patents. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in 1970, the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists in 1984, the "Top 100" Innovation Awards from Science Digest in 1985, the 2001 International Scientist of the Year from the International Biographic Centre in Cambridge, and the 2002 Nichols Medal Award from the American Chemical Society.

Barbara K. Fergus, Distinguished Service Award

Barbara K. Fergus is owner/partner of Midwestern Auto Group of Dublin and a community activist and philanthropist.

A 1957 graduate of the now Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, Fergus has been an active advocate for a wide variety of programs and initiatives at her alma mater. She has been a loyal supporter of the university's John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy since its inception, playing a leading role in the institute's NEW Leadership Ohio program, designed to encourage young women to run for political office. To celebrate her birthday and her commitment to social change, her friends established the Barbara K. Fergus Women in Leadership Lecture Series at the institute.

As a tireless supporter of the arts, she has publicly promoted the College of the Arts and the university itself among social, professional, and philanthropic groups, encouraging involvement and partnerships. She has helped support Women in Technology Program within Ohio State's Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, both with her own funding and her advice and influence with other funding institutions. The two-week summer program mentors young women in arts and technology.

Her other wide-ranging university activities include support for women's basketball scholarships, the Fisher College of Business Leadership Symposium, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and University Libraries. She has been a member of the National Major Gift Committee in Columbus, Humanities Development Council, Friends of the Libraries board, and Partners for the Arts. She is also a recipient of the university's Gerlach Award for outstanding development volunteer work.

Fergus has been affiliated with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, BalletMet, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Jazz Arts Group, and the Franklin Park Conservatory. As one of the founders of The Women's Fund of Central Ohio, she is devoted to establishing equity and financial parity for women and girls. As a board member of The Academy for Leadership and Governance of The Jefferson Center, she works to identify, nurture, and encourage future administrators in all facets of the arts.

Ernest W. Johnson, Distinguished Service Award

Ernest W. Johnson is professor emeritus in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Widely regarded as a pioneering leader in the discipline of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Johnson has long been an advocate for improving the lives of the physically challenged.

After 43 months of service in the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps during World War II, Johnson enrolled at Ohio State on the G.I. Bill, receiving his B.A. in 1948 and his M.D. cum laude in 1952. Following graduation, he was a fellow on the polio ward at Columbus Children's Hospital.

He joined the faculty of Ohio State's College of Medicine in 1954 as an instructor in the Department of Anatomy. In 1959 he became director of the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and, in 1963, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He was in the forefront of the independent-living movement, leading a successful campaign to establish Ohio State's Creative Living Center, a facility designed to enable physically handicapped individuals to live and function independently. The program's success soon required construction of a second independent-living facility on Ohio State's campus. Johnson challenged architects to develop barrier-free buildings, especially on campus.

His years of leadership as chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and his nationally recognized and successful program in Dodd Hall, the university's rehabilitation hospital, led to continuous recognition of this program in U.S. News & World Report.

During the 1980s, he served as consultant to a committee reviewing smoking policy on Ohio State's campus, which led to a smoking ban in classrooms and offices and, eventually, in Ohio Stadium and St. John Arena. He was editor of The College of Medicine Journal for 40 years, writing many editorials on the dangers of smoking.

Johnson serves as vice president of the board of trustees of the Roosevelt-Warm Springs Foundation and on the board of directors of Creative Living. He is a past president of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Association of Academic Physiatrists. In 1990, his colleagues honored him with the prestigious Henry B. Betts Award, presented by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and, in 1988, he received Ohio State's Affirmative Action Award.