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Swarthmore Bids Farewell to Two Retiring Faculty Members

Yellow flower blooms in foreground in front of Parrish Hall in background.

This spring, the College celebrates the retirement of two esteemed faculty members — Howard and Ada J. Eavenson Professor Emeritus of Engineering Nelson Macken and James H. Hammons Professor of Chemistry Tom Stephenson.

Though they will be missed on campus, each leaves behind an indelible legacy, fostered through notable scholarship, devoted mentorship, and lasting commitment to the liberal arts.

Nelson Macken aids student in engineering labNelson Macken, Howard and Ada J. Eavenson Professor Emeritus of Engineering, taught and conducted research with students and coworkers in the area of thermal energy for 45 years. He also served as department chair from 1983–92. His student projects included participation in national contests for hybrid electric and fuel-cell vehicles. He also had a strong interest in teaching courses that related engineering to the liberal arts and conducted an outreach program for college and middle school students with the goal of increasing interest in math, science, and engineering.

Macken’s published research includes life-cycle assessment, alternative energy, microfluids, and multiphase flow with applications to nuclear power generation. He was a consultant to many government laboratories and private corporations. Before coming to Swarthmore College, he taught at Carnegie Mellon University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Macken is a registered professional engineer and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). He earned a bachelor’s at Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University) and a master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Delaware.

“I am grateful to have had the privilege of working at Swarthmore since 1978,” Macken says. “I was actually paid to have fun! It was always a pleasure to associate with intelligent, caring individuals who were responsive to any challenge. Many of them I consider not just students, but co-workers. Swarthmore’s leave policy also allowed me the enjoyment of growing professionally with colleagues outside the institution.”

Tom StephensonA member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry since 1985, Tom Stephenson, James H. Hammons Professor of Chemistry, has served as chair of the department, as provost (2011–18), and on a number of College committees. Stephenson also was the recipient of the Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and the Eugene M. Lang Faculty Fellowship.

“I have had many roles: classroom teacher, advisor, mentor to dozens of research students, administrator, and colleague to my intellectually stimulating fellow faculty,” Stephenson says. In his almost 38 years at Swarthmore, Stephenson has focused on general and physical chemistry courses, along with senior-level seminars and supervising student research in his laboratory. In 2011, he accepted a ChemLuminary Award on behalf of the Division of Physical Chemistry for his work organizing a series of undergraduate-focused talks and social events during national American Chemical Society meetings.

He earned a bachelor’s in chemistry at Furman University and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Chicago. His current research is focused on understanding the kinetics of important unimolecular reactions in the atmosphere. Over the years, his work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society, the Research Corp., and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

“Upon retirement, I will miss engaging with students on exciting topics in chemistry and learning from my colleagues about innovative pedagogy and cutting-edge research in many disciplines,” he says. “But I look forward to being intellectually engaged, at a pace defined by my own interests, rather than the academic calendar.”

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