Carl Bender becomes the inaugural Konneker Distinguished Professor

The first Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professorship of Physics in Arts & Sciences was presented to Carl Bender, Ph.D., in an installation ceremony Nov. 27 in Holmes Lounge.

In announcing the gift, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said: “There are many great names associated with Washington University’s physics department, and now I’m delighted to announce two more: Konneker and Bender. Dr. Konneker is one of our most distinguished alumni in physics, and Dr. Bender one of our most eminent faculty.”

Over the years, the Konnekers have provided generous support for WUSTL scholarships, fellowships and facilities. “Their exemplary support is greatly appreciated, for its benefits will be far-reaching and influence the intellectual lives of present and future students,” Wrighton said.

The Konnekers’ association with the University dates back to 1947, when Will began his doctoral work in physics. It was, as he says, “an extraordinary time” to be associated with the department, being taught and mentored by the great Arthur Holly Compton. In fact, Konneker had worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, the group that succeeded Compton’s initial committee formed to develop an atomic bomb.

After receiving his doctorate in physics, Konneker and fellow alum Kennard Morganstern, Ph.D., founded Nuclear Consultants, the nation’s first commercial supplier of radioactive isotopes for the pharmaceutical industry. When Mallinckrodt bought the company in 1966, Konneker became vice president of its diagnostics division.

In 1973, he left Mallinckrodt to pursue other opportunities; 10 years later, he returned to his other alma mater to direct the Ohio University Innovation Center and Research Park while continuing to serve on Ohio University’s Board of Trustees.

Ann Lee Konneker, who is an alumna of Ohio State University, joins her husband in generously supporting institutions of higher education, particularly Ohio and Washington universities. In 1998, she received the Baker Award from Ohio State University in recognition of her generosity and dedication; in 1991, Will Konneker was awarded WUSTL’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Carl Bender, Ph.D., addresses the gathering in Holmes Lounge Nov. 27 following his installation as the first Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences. “Dr. Bender is one of our most eminent faculty,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.

Bender is an internationally renowned leader in mathematical physics, specializing in the application of asymptotic analysis, differential-equation theory and complex-variable methods to quantum mechanics and elementary particle physics.

Although his research and scholarship cover a number of fields, his most recent work involves originating the large and active field of PT quantum theory.

“Since joining Washington University 30 years ago, Carl Bender has made great contributions and has advanced many areas of scholarly inquiry,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor.

“The Arts & Sciences physics department is strengthened by professors such as Carl who serve with such great distinction, and by generous supporters such as Ann Lee and Will Konneker, who help create a thriving environment in which to work.”

In addition to more than 260 articles published in scholarly journals, Bender is the co-author of the widely used textbook “Advanced Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers,” with Steven A. Orszag. Currently he is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical.

Among his most prestigious awards are being named a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the UK Institute of Physics; he also has received Fulbright, Sloan, Guggenheim and Lady Davis fellowships.

Other highlights of his career include being selected as the 2007 Stanislaw M. Ulam Distinguished Scholar at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico and receiving the University’s Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award in 2007. His work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

An active citizen of the University, Bender has served on many committees, including Academic Integrity; Compton Fellowship Selection; Tenure, Promotion and Personnel; Honorary Degree Committee; and Senate Council. For several years he served as Ombudsman for Arts & Sciences.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from Harvard University. Before coming to St. Louis,

Bender was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and then joined the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.