Kenneth F. Kelton, Ph.D., professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, has been named the first Arthur Holly Compton Professor in Arts & Sciences.
John F. McDonnell, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees and retired chairman of the board of McDonnell Douglas Corp., with JSM Charitable Trust, endowed the new professorship, which is intended for academic and research leadership in materials science. The installation was held in Holmes Lounge Oct. 17.
“Ken Kelton is an outstanding teacher and researcher, and he will undoubtedly continue to make important new discoveries in materials physics,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.
Kelton’s professorship is the most recent in a long history of philanthropic support for the University from the McDonnell family.
“The extraordinary generosity of the McDonnell family over the years has touched the lives of all who come here to learn, teach, study and conduct research,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.
“Their support includes professorships, academic and research initiatives, buildings and scholarships,” Wrighton continued. “In particular, our scientific, engineering and medical programs have been significantly enhanced. We are all extremely grateful for their support of and dedication to Washington University.”
Long active in the University’s leadership, McDonnell is immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees. For Arts & Sciences, McDonnell was a founding member of its National Council; he now serves on the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences’ National Council. He and his wife, Anne, are life members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society and sustaining charter members of the society’s Danforth Circle.
Among his most significant gifts is a $10 million endowment, established in 2005 with the JSM Charitable Trust, to create the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. In addition, he served as chair of the leadership phase for the Campaign for Washington University.
Within the field of materials physics, Kelton’s work is concentrated in complex stable and metastable phases, with particular interest in novel phases such as titanium-based quasicrystals and metallic glasses; experimental and theoretical studies of time-dependent nucleation in condensed systems; investigations of the relationship between developing short-range order in supercooled liquids and nucleation processes; and studies of the potential use of quasicrystals as novel hydrogen storage materials.
In addition, Kelton teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels. His service to the Department of Physics includes chairing and serving as a member of the Graduate Admissions Committee and serving as a member of the Graduate Studies Committee and an adviser to the chair.
In Arts & Sciences, Kelton is a member of the Academic Planning Board. For the University, he has worked on its Judicial Board and with Science Outreach, which builds bridges with local school districts.
Professionally, he serves as U.S. regional editor for the Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids and sits on the editorial board for Philosophical Magazine Letters. Kelton also serves on the Microgravity Science and Applications Science Council of the Universities Space Research Association and is a fellow of the American Physical Society.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Arkansas Polytechnic College in 1976 and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Tennessee in 1978. At Harvard University, Kelton earned another master’s degree and a doctoral degree in applied physics.
After graduation, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard for two years, then joined the faculty at Washington University in 1985.
Both the McDonnell family and Arts & Sciences honor the enduring legacy of Arthur Holly Compton, for whom the professorship is named.
During Compton’s time at WUSTL as a professor and chair of physics, he discovered an X-ray scattering effect. Now known as the Compton effect, the discovery firmly established the particle/wave duality predicted by quantum physics. It earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1927.
Moving to the University of Chicago, Compton led the metallurgical laboratory of the Manhattan Project, which was pivotal in the development of the atomic bomb.
Compton returned to Washington University in 1945 to become its ninth chancellor; he retired in 1953.