Vol. 19, No. 9Oct. 28, 1999

Explorer says his major gift reflects special connection

Successful faculty invariably report that they had a mentor-"one of those great people who took an interest in them, early in life," according to Provost Mel Schiavelli.

A $500,000 gift from renowned South Pole explorer Martin A. Pomerantz and his wife, Molly Pomerantz, will make it possible to provide UD students with one more outstanding faculty mentor, Schiavelli said Oct. 27 during a press conference at Clayton Hall.

Pomerantz, who served as director of the Bartol Research Institute from 1959 until 1986, told reporters that his gift reflects his "special connection" with the University.

"I believe very strongly in the mission of Delaware... which is to do research at the cutting edge," Pomerantz explained. "Conditions here are just outstanding to support that effort."

Because education and research are "inextricably intertwined," Pomerantz said, students must have opportunities to work closely with senior faculty researchers.

Recruiting and retaining excellent faculty members is a top priority for UD, and a central goal of the ongoing capital campaign, President David P. Roselle said.

Recommendations to fill the Martin A. Pomerantz Chair of Physics and Astronomy will be reviewed by a faculty committee and by Bartol President Norman F. Ness, as well as Thomas M. DiLorenzo, dean of the College of Arts and Science, and others, Schiavelli said.

Now living in Alabama, Pomerantz was among the first to recognize the value of Antarctica as "the world's coldest laboratory," Roselle said. Over Antarctica, a window in the Earth's magnetic field permits the entry of cosmic particles from space. In addition, data collection is not interrupted by clouds or the setting sun, Bartol researchers explained in a videotaped tribute to Pomerantz, which was shown at the press conference.

"Much of what we currently know about the universe and its formation, we owe to Dr. Pomerantz," Roselle said as he thanked Molly and Martin Pomerantz. "Isn't it a nice thing, that a retired employee has chosen to come back and give us a very generous gift?"

The Pomerantz legacy "is both a spirit of adventure in scientific research, as well as the maintenance of very high standards," Ness said on the videotape, created by Information Technologies/University Media Services.

Today, neutron monitors in Greenland, Delaware and Antarctica-part of a scientific base designated by the National Science Foundation as the Pomerantz Tableland-allow scientists to study highly energetic cosmic rays that constantly bombard the Earth.

Research based in Antarctica offers both fundamental and practical insights, Pomerantz said. Understanding "space weather," for example, helps researchers predict cosmic disturbances that can affect the electrical grid on Earth. Certain Antarctic studies also have been useful for investigating the impacts of space radiation on astronauts and spacecraft, he added.

Born in Brooklyn Dec. 17, 1916, Pomerantz said he first began conducting research at Bartol while he was still pursuing a master's degree. Working with Bartol "has been my only job," he quipped at the press event. "I started as a graduate student... and essentially stayed on!"

Pomerantz served as research assistant for Bartol from 1938 until 1941, then became a research fellow. After completing his doctoral education and carrying the National Geographic Society flag to the South Pole, he assumed a leadership role at Bartol.

His pioneering research now benefits the current generation of UD students and Bartol scientists like postdoctoral fellow Glenn Spiczak. "The opportunity I've been given to go [to the South Pole] is a direct result of Dr. Pomerantz's work," Spiczak explained on the videotape. "The Pomerantz endowed chair position will allow [UD] to bring in some more well-known researchers to Bartol and also create opportunities for a lot more young scientists like myself to come to Bartol and continue on with his research."

-Ginger Pinholster