For many on campus, the Physics offices on the second floor of Olds Upton could be considered another planet, unfamiliar territory. Residing in one of the windowed offices is researcher turned educator Dr. Tom Askew. Although a 26-year resident of the department, Dr. Askew assured that he had not always been a professor.
“I started out working in research science in industry…I worked for DuPont Research for 7 years after graduate school…There was a lot of reorganization in industry, so a lot of research people lost their jobs…I got reorganized out of a job, but I had had a great job doing research and publishing a lot.”
In fact, Askew’s favorite moments from his career come from research and publishing.
“I’ve published papers with a wide variety of scientists and engineers so it’s a ‘both and’… chemists, physicists, but also about five kinds of engineers… It’s the breadth…To contribute to research across such a broad front of science and technology is somewhat unusual.”
“I started college as an economics major and taking a lot of math, but I was interested in physics somewhat. In college, I worked in the construction industry. I was an apprentice electrician during the summers and vacation periods…I guess I always liked electricity. And the physicists had big toys and were having a lot of fun…(Physics) looked like a good place to go. Economics was not in very good shape in the 1970’s when I was an undergraduate.”
As a student at Gordon College, a small liberal arts college north of Boston, it wasn’t all work for Askew. His favorite memory from his undergraduate studies came at the end of each year.
“At the end of spring term…the students in organic chemistry, just to show the faculty that they were not intimidated, would go outside the science building…and would shred their big organic chemistry books which had about 1200 pages and throw the covers and all the pages up on the roof of the science building. We kind of turned it into an end of the year party…the faculty hated it, but it was kind of fun to watch, fun to do.”
Today, Dr. Askew is able to have fun outside of the classroom and office, without destroying textbooks. A “serious sailor,” he serves as a deckhand, engineer, and gunner on a British ship from 1812.
At the end of Spring term…the students in organic chemistry, just to show the faculty that they were not intimidated, would shred their big organic chemistry books and throw the covers and all the pages up on the roof of the science building
“I crew on a tall ship that’s based in South Haven called The Friend’s Good Will. It’s owned by the Michigan Maritime Museum. We’re right out of the War of 1812 so we have a cannon. We have appeared in some reenacted battles.”
In parting, when asked what advice he would give his undergraduate self, Dr. Askew smiled and replied, “Have more fun and study less, just don’t overdo it.”