March 8th, 2001
U.Va. School Of Engineering Receives Gift For Materials Science Lab In Memory Of John W. Matthews
The family of the late John W. Matthews, a former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia and a groundbreaking materials researcher, has pledged $500,000 in his memory to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Matthews, whose son is the rock music composer and performer Dave Matthews, was an IBM Corporation research scientist who had a long-term research affiliation with the Engineering School.
The gift will support construction of a 1,000 square-foot laboratory in the planned materials science building, a research and teaching facility to be built in 2002. The building also will house conference rooms and faculty offices and will connect the Materials Science and Chemical Engineering buildings.
John Matthews' relationship with the University began in 1964 when he came to the University as a postdoctoral researcher working with Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, University Professor of Applied Science, wife of the late Heinz Wilsdorf, first chair of the Department of Materials Science. Matthews already had distinguished himself by conducting promising research in epitaxy, an area that underlies much of modern computer technology. Fourteen years earlier, as a freshman at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Matthews was the top student in the first class taught by Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf.
Matthews later guided William A. Jesser, now chair of the U.Va. Department of Materials Science, in his Ph.D. research on epitaxy, thereby establishing this important research area at the University. Matthews' many contributions to the science of epitaxy are still fundamental to computer chip manufacture.
"John was a very creative scientist with deep insight into how nature works," Jesser says. "He developed several groundbreaking ideas that still are fresh and in use today. He was a very caring person and a good friend. I watched his family grow in the 13 years I knew him, and our families became friends."
Construction of the new materials science building was assured by a recent $15 million gift from Materials Science alumnus Gregory Olsen, who obtained his Ph.D. under Jesser as his first graduate student in epitaxy. The Engineering School will recommend to the University's Board of Visitors at its April meeting that the building be named Wilsdorf Hall in honor of Heinz Wilsdorf and Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf.
Until his death in 1977, Matthews maintained close professional contacts with the Wilsdorfs and especially Jesser.
Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf remembers Matthews and Olsen with admiration. "We did some extraordinary work together in those days, both in labs here at the University and in South Africa," she says. "I am moved that the Matthews family would choose to honor John in this manner."