The Family that Cared for Richard Heck

By Fabian M. Dayrit, PhD.

Richard F. Heck

Unfortunately the portrayal of the events prior to the death of Prof. Heck is incomplete. It’s not true that he died without being cared for. Let me share with you some details that will hopefully give you a better picture of the situation. I am writing this to honor his memory, to show gratitude for his family, and to correct the news that he was not cared for. Richard Heck did have a family that cared for him until his death.

I first met with Prof. Heck a few days after the announcement of his Nobel award in 2010. The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines was organizing the 26th Philippine Chemistry Congress in April 2011, so he would have been a great plenary speaker. We found him living in a modest home in the Tandang Sora area. He had completely retired from Chemistry and had been out of touch with things for over 10 years already. He also suffered from dementia and so did not want to talk science, but was happy to inspire the young. We arranged to have some of our MS Chem students interview him at his home.

At that time, he was almost completely dependent on his wife, Socorro, and his nephew, Michael Nardo. He was also very much attached to Michael’s child. He seemed happy with his simple life. It was also clear that he had no family to go back to in the US so this was his home.

Prof. Heck brought his family along to our chemistry congress in Cebu. We arranged for him to have a session with the student participants in the annual Chemistry quiz contest for high school students, an event which he enjoyed.

Socorro was many years younger than Richard (almost 20 years, I think), and so I was surprised and saddened when she passed away two years ago. Richard’s care fell to the hands of Mike.

People ask about the financials and what has happened to his share of the Nobel funds. I am guessing that Socorro, like all Filipina wives, probably took care of managing the funds. Certainly, I don’t think that Richard would have been in any condition to manage it properly. So when she passed away suddenly, I don’t know if any of the financial information and legal papers would have been attended to. I don’t know if Mike has knowledge of how to manage the legal situation since Heck is a US citizen and Mike is not a “next of kin”.

The Nardos are a family with modest means so it was a big burden for them to take over the care of Richard with the many medical complications that had come up. All they had was Heck’s $2,500 pension and a US insurance company that was delayed in its payments to the hospital. Mike told me that they had to sell their car to raise more funds for Richard’s care. From Mike’s description of Heck’s condition, it’s possible that Alzheimer’s may have been setting in as well.

The first day of the wake on Saturday, October 10, was assigned to the Philippine chemistry societies. I was at the wake in the afternoon when the GMA news crew was interviewing the two caregivers. The reporter was obviously more interested in the news angle that Heck had been abandoned. We asked them whether they wanted to interview others who were also at the wake (Dr. Alvin Culaba, VP of DLSU, and Drs. Armand and Odette Guidote were also there at the time) but they were satisfied with the story line that they got from the caregivers. This was also the story that came out in Rappler.

In addition to the family, we should also be thankful to De La Salle for welcoming Richard to their academic community and for providing for the wake expenses. I am sure that this added to the joy of his final years.

Richard Heck did have a family that cared for him.


About the author: Dr. Dayrit is an Academician of the National Academy of Science & Technology (Philippines). He is a Professor of Chemistry, Ateneo de Manila University, and the current president of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines.

Ateneo’s Chemistry Department Chair

By Mark Adam Ferry

jmdJose Mario M. Diaz is appointed chair of the Ateneo de Manila chemistry department, a diverse academic unit dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in research and teaching. Diaz pleased and excited on this opportunity, is looking forward to continue Ateneo’s research tradition and to further the conversation on issues germane to teaching and research.

“Faculty staff in foreign universities has less teaching hour responsibilities, and more time to do research.” Diaz, lamented. Managing teaching and research on top of a boat load of paperwork, limited research materials and equipment seemed to be on a collision course to his targeted goals –but nothing that an engineer cannot handgrip.

Diaz completed his master’s degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of the Philippines (Diliman) and his doctorate degree in Materials Engineering from Tokyo University. His core focus areas on material science include research on plasma processing and composite. “We utilize the fourth state of matter in modifying surfaces of materials to make new materials”. An example is the enhancement of polymer-based surfaces using plasma for better surface adhesion. At present, Diaz is looking at a new direction into composites by utilizing various fibers as reinforcement. For instance, naturally-procured fibers derived from pineapple leaves were modified to have flame-retardant properties. He is collaborating with Dr. Erwin Enriquez in a PICARI (Philippines-California Advanced Research Institute) research project on modifying raw materials via plasma processing in sensitized photovoltaic cells. “At various fabrication stages of the cells, we are trying to include plasma processing to clean surfaces and to improve performance,” Diaz added.

The chemistry department has clearly begun bracing the expected difficulties and challenges that lies ahead from the K-12 implementation. “I hope to see a smoother transition from secondary to tertiary education, but I expect it’s going to be turbulent. We’ll see mismatches with the expectations of the tertiary level with what the secondary education is producing.” Diaz added.

Like most newbie administrators, he is optimistic to see changes in the educational system including a smoother transition from the academe to the industry and a clearer career paths for chemistry majors. Diaz is pleased that Ateneo has a mechanism to support financially, faculty who are just starting to setup their research. He is optimistic to see more faculty involved in research and less on teaching or administrative work.

On occasions when his conscious and subconscious mind is not occupied with the fourth state of matter, Diaz loves being a plain dad and spends time with his wife and three kids.

Academician and Professor Emeritus Fortunato Sevilla, III: Sketches from ‘España’

by Carlos P. Garcia

Miles Davis’ 1960 landmark album Sketches from Spain, one of his most enduring composition, evoked an aspiration of music in vibrant flamenco colors that conceptually, one’s prospect of painting that music narrative, would not seemed possible. Fortunato Sevilla’s forty five-year tenure at Santo Tomas was widely recognized for his scholarship and commitment to the advancement of chemistry. Several dispatch carried the news of his conferment. But all of these is a matter of unrestricted communal knowledge. Since then, I have not read a more personal sketch in the many public tribute to him for, as with the complexity of Davis’ music narrative, I am not sure it is possible.

Without doubt Sevilla deserves tributes from those who had the privilege of either having been his students or his colleagues in the chemistry profession. Perhaps never been made, I will disclose a more thoughtful narrative of how the teacher and the mentor evolved against the backdrop of this University from this end of España Boulevard.

Almost fifty summers ago, when a young Fortunato Sevilla, III decided to enter Santo Tomas to take up chemistry, nobody expected, Sevilla least of all, that someday the University will acknowledge his leading role and contribution to the development of research and education at Santo Tomas. Yet, Professor Sevilla was for many decades one of the most celebrated teaching figures here at Santo Tomas. This recognition of his distinguished career, not only in this university which regards him to be among its most valued assets, but in the chemistry profession as a whole. Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., Rector of the University of Santo Tomas declared no one is more deserving of today’s recognition than Professor Sevilla. “His selfless dedication to the University is nothing short of legendary,” A litany of achievement follows:

Fortunato Sevilla, III

“Whereas, he has displayed sustained excellence in teaching, rendered distinguished administrative service and played an active role in promoting the growth of research in the University;
Whereas, he has made significant contributions as a researcher in the field of chemical sensors and biosensors,
Whereas, he has maintained a productive interest in the improvement of chemistry education in the country and
Whereas, he has rendered exemplary service contributing his expertise to the development of higher education and research in the field of chemistry in the country.”

Sevilla, the Restrained Teacher

Just as Sevilla’s students did more than forty years ago, Cynthia Uriquia-Talens and Corazon Sacdalan (Chemistry, 1981) also praised his boundless charm. Sacdalan quips, “(Sevilla) inspires all who come into his presence to stand taller—that is, to be their very best.” Talens who is presently in the doctoral program, added that even a short conversation with him consulting about the feasibility of a dissertation topic would snow balled into a full blown collaboration; a testament to his perpetual curiosity on matters of research inquiry.

Professor Rosalito De Guzman’s (BS Gen, 1970; Psychology, 1971) first encounter with Sevilla was when he joined the College of Science as a junior teaching staff in 1971. “Many professors I recall fondly come from the chemistry department who taught us to think well, were themselves unforgettable personalities.” De Guzman was appointed administrative Secretary of the College of Science (1978-1984) upon the recommendation of then Psychology department chair Prof. Angelina Ramirez and Assistant Dean Trinidad Ames. At the time of his appointment, there was a full blown rift between the Dean’s administration and the chemistry professors, who felt stung by what they viewed as unfair College policies. De Guzman recalled that Sevilla was anything but restrained in those days, he was quite vocal on the issue. De Guzman saw this as an opportunity to take time to know more the chemistry staff some of whom became close colleagues; Lilian De Jesus-Sison (Chemistry, 1968), Miroan Sy (Chemistry, 1966), Lourdes Eustaquio, Lourdes Chavez, and Susan Jardiolin (Chemistry, 1969) to name a few.

Sevilla, the Analytical Chemist

Sevilla taught mainly Analytical chemistry at the UST Graduate School. However, his teaching repertoire is deeply entrenched in Physical and Organic chemistry. Teaching undergraduate physical chemistry can be traced from Dean Mariano Pangan and Professor Estrella Rivera who taught the course before him. De Guzman’s recollection of Rivera’s teaching style, was her competence to derive formulas and the absence to inject humor in her lectures. “The class was quite insipid.” De Guzman recalled.

Rivera’s sudden demise mid-semester of 1974, during Alice Aguinaldo’s physical chemistry lecture class, left a gaping hole in the teaching roster of the department. Sevilla picked up from where Rivera left and continued to teach the course until 1983 before he left for Manchester. The early eighties was a period when physical chem became one of the most dreaded courses to chemistry majors. The number of failing students at the end of each semester is short of horrific. But it was also an era in Sevilla’s teaching career that became one of his best, turning out many bright students, many of whom went into either teaching or research. This was no doubt due to the diligence of Sevilla as a teacher.

“Sevilla was one of two who represented Santo Tomas to attend the 1969 seminar on a Molecular Approach in the Teaching of Organic Chemistry organized by Prof. Clara Y. Lim-Sylianco.” Lilian Sison (Chemistry, 1968) recollected. The seminar was intended to assist organic chemistry teachers who are in transition of teaching the course from pure memory work to a molecular orbital approach in explaining reaction mechanisms -and thus began affection to teach Organic chemistry. This incursion with organic chemistry similarly took Sevilla to teach Organic Analysis to chemistry majors. The design of the laboratory component for this coursework is purely his own. It was at this stage when organic spectroscopy, then a sprouting new field, was assimilated in the curriculum.

The Organic Chemistry Teacher’s Association (OCTA) sprout out of this 1969 seminar. Sevilla was one of the original co-founders of the organization and his contributions to OCTA, then a fledging organization have been wide and deep. From assisting in the founding of an organization that afforded teachers a venue to regularly update themselves in organic chemistry, to building a network component of chemistry educators to include Professors Lillian Sison, University of the Philippines’ Angelita Reyes and Far Eastern University’s Consorcia Mendoza-Empaynado (Chemistry, 1954), to name a few. These personalities will become key administrators in their respective universities in the years to come.

Sevilla, the Thomasian

Fortunato Sevilla, III (b. 1947) had his primary school to collegiate education at Santo Tomas, culminating with a degree in chemistry in 1968, Summa cum Laude.
A British Council scholarship afforded him to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Masters and doctoral degrees in Instrumentation and Analytical Science from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) was completed 1984 and 1987, respectively.

Unknown to most people, there is a tinge of Blue Eagle blood running in his veins. Shortly after graduation, in a chance visit at Ateneo, Sevilla was asked if he was interested to take the graduate entrance examinations, scheduled on that same day. He took the bait, and passed it, without fanfare.

In Ateneo, he established himself as one of the best students, completing all course requirements with high distinction. He did a semester of coursework before he decided to apply for a teaching stint back at Santo Tomas. He reminisced it was such a physically demanding effort considering the daily grind of traveling from Espana to Loyola Heights, whilst maintaining a regular teaching load at Santo Tomas. But all these was quite worth it, for he has high regards to the professors he was fortunate to meet: Modesto Chua, Amando Kapauan and Fr. William J. Schmidt, S.J., to namedrop a few. Short of completing the degree because of thesis research, he was particularly amused to recall his oral comprehensive examinations when his examiners ran out of questions for him and had to teasingly shoo him away.

Sevilla, the Administrator

To Sevilla’s colleagues, he had already established for himself a formidable reputation for being an effectual administrator (Assistant to the Rector for Research and Development, 2000-2002; Dean, College of Science, 2002-2008). His absolute commitment and competence with which he has unceasingly conducted every aspect of his administration, and his unflagging advocacy on behalf of the development of faculty members are hallmarks of his tenure.

“Failure to sketch him as a private persona is certainly due to the fact that he is quite reserved, even to his closest colleagues,” quips Alice Aguinaldo (Chemistry, 1976) to whom I pointed out this observation. Aguinaldo knew nothing personal about him even after six years of working side by side with him as his assistant dean in the College of Science. She added, “…it appears it is always strictly business when you’re dealing with him (Sevilla), but I think, that is just his style. In the many years that I worked with him, I never, not even once, saw him lost his cool, or raised his voice to someone.” Aguinaldo was right.

“The only opportunity we (sort of) had a peek into his personal life was when he invited me and Prof. Alice Maranon, who was then the department Chair, to drive by his home in Quezon City.” It was the night right after they visited the wake of the son of Asst. Prof. Carmen Gaerlan-Morales (Chemistry, 1962). “It was so unexpected. He appeared to be very accommodating and even showed us his bedroom…the inner Sanctum. I guess, everyone in the department was in a reflective mood, if not dazed with the unexpected demise of Morales’ son, and that could be his way to vent out his sentiments.” Aguinaldo remembered.

Sevilla, the Researcher

Sevilla’s early roots in research is attributed to his high regards for his mentors. His undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Estella Zamora (Chemistry, 1954) came to mind as he fondly remembers her. “She returned to UST with a doctoral degree from Germany. She was immensely confident and did her thing very competently”. Nevertheless, he lamented that in those days, there is scarcity of role model teachers to lure students to pursue graduate degrees. Perhaps this is the same rabbit hole he fell into and that is why it took him sixteen years to seriously take a study leave to pursue doctoral degree.

His early foray as an undergraduate thesis advisor dealt with topics that sprung out of serendipitous observations in the laboratory. Leah Tolosa (Chemistry, 1981), presently the Assistant Director for the Center for Advanced Sensor Technology Research (CAST) of the University of Maryland (Baltimore), did her undergraduate thesis with Sevilla. They examined the kinetic solvent effects on the reaction of 2,4-dinitrochlorobenzene with N-methylaniline, revealing Sevilla’s initial interest in organic chemistry. “Fortune (Sevilla) has been one of the most influential mentors in my life. The topic of my undergrad thesis still reflects on my current projects, 35 years later! It’s simply amazing.” Tolosa added. Deeply engaged, at times critical, Sevilla influenced many students which to date, amounted to roughly close to a hundred research articles collaborations.

He returned to Santo Tomas in 1986 to begin a then-unconventional life as a teacher, researcher and administrator—and in a scientific realm when Santo Tomas was hardly being treated seriously by the three rival universities. As Director of the Research Center for the Natural Sciences (1987-2000), he distinguished himself to having an eyeball on a single prize, make UST known in the national research circle. This poised to be a difficult exploit as, in those days, Santo Tomas is a bit reserved in joining national research conferences, even though there exist a confident research practice particularly in Natural Products within the campus.

Then commence a period of full participation in oral and poster presentation in national professional conferences together with a stream of co-sponsored international seminars. It was a decision that was unprecedented, which opened up university research to be known elsewhere. He delivered his promise and did not disappoint his researchers.

Much is owed to this Academician, mentor and gracious colleague who has made myriad contributions to the conservancy of our university’s great heritage in teaching and research. Professor Sevilla’s distinguished contributions to the institution he has loved and served and his “perpetual curiosity and engagement” with the world around him is forever etched in our collective imagination.

The Hague Ethical Guidelines

Applying the Norms of the Practice of Chemistry to Support the Chemical Weapons Convention

The responsible practice of chemistry improves the quality of life of humankind and the environment. Through their many peaceful uses, such as in research and industry, chemicals play an essential role in this improvement. However, some chemicals can also be used as chemical weapons or to create them, and these weapons are among the most horrific in the world.

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) embodies the powerful international norm against chemical weapons, requiring its States Parties “never under any circumstances: (a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone; (b) To use chemical weapons; (c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons; (d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.” The task of destroying the world’s declared stockpiles of chemical weapons is close to completion, but the threats that the use of chemicals as weapons pose to global security have not yet been eliminated.

As destruction of the remaining chemical weapons continues, a concerted effort is needed to prevent their re-emergence. This includes training and raising awareness among chemistry practitioners, defined as anyone trained in chemistry as well as others dealing with or handling chemicals. Their support is needed so that production and use of chemicals is accompanied by recognition of the responsibility to ensure that they are applied solely for peaceful and beneficial purposes. Fortunately, ethical standards established by the global chemistry community already provide a foundation. Building on that foundation, a group of experts from 24 countries from all regions of the world convened to define and harmonize key elements of ethical guidelines as they relate to chemical weapons based on existing codes.*

Such codes are primary ways through which the community’s ethical standards are addressed. The key elements presented in this text should be incorporated into new and existing codes in order to align with the provisions of the CWC. A code need not mention chemical weapons or the CWC to support its basic goals, and provisions may need to be tailored for particular sectors or circumstances, while still reflecting the fundamental values. Taken together, “The Hague Ethical Guidelines” provide the key elements that should be applied universally.

The Key Elements

Core element. Achievements in the field of chemistry should be used to benefit humankind and protect the environment.

Sustainability. Chemistry practitioners have a special responsibility for promoting and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Education. Formal and informal educational providers, enterprise, industry and civil society should cooperate to equip anybody working in chemistry and others with the necessary knowledge and tools to take responsibility for the benefit of humankind, the protection of the environment and to ensure relevant and meaningful engagement with the general public.

Awareness and engagement. Teachers, chemistry practitioners, and policymakers should be aware of the multiple uses of chemicals, specifically their use as chemical weapons or their precursors. They should promote the peaceful applications of chemicals and work to prevent any misuse of chemicals, scientific knowledge, tools and technologies, and any harmful or unethical developments in research and innovation. They should disseminate relevant information about national and international laws, regulations, policies and practices.

Ethics. To adequately respond to societal challenges, education, research and innovation must respect fundamental rights and apply the highest ethical standards. Ethics should be perceived as a way of ensuring high quality results in science.

Safety and Security. Chemistry practitioners should promote the beneficial applications, uses, and development of science and technology while encouraging and maintaining a strong culture of safety, health, and security.

Accountability. Chemistry practitioners have a responsibility to ensure that chemicals, equipment and facilities are protected against theft and diversion and are not used for illegal, harmful or destructive purposes. These persons should be aware of applicable laws and regulations governing the manufacture and use of chemicals, and they should report any misuse of chemicals, scientific knowledge, equipment and facilities to the relevant authorities.

Oversight. Chemistry practitioners who supervise others have the additional responsibility to ensure that chemicals, equipment and facilities are not used by those persons for illegal, harmful or destructive purposes.

Exchange of information. Chemistry practitioners should promote the exchange of scientific and technical information relating to the development and application of chemistry for peaceful purposes.

Endorsed by

Professor Muhamad Abdulkadir (Indonesia) Professor Jasim Uddin Ahmad (Bangladesh) Professor Abeer Al-Bawab (Jordan)
Professor Fernando Albericio Palomera (Spain) Professor Jan Apotheker (The Netherlands)
Professor Mahdi Balali-Mood (Islamic Republic of Iran) Professor Djafer Benachour (Algeria)
Dr Mark Cesa (United States of America) Professor Al-Nakib Chowdhury (Bangladesh) Dr Philip Coleman (South Africa)
Professor Dr Hartmut Frank (Germany) Professor David Gonzalez (Uruguay)
Professor Alastair Hay (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) Mr Steven Hill (United States of America)
Professor Dr Henning Hopf (Germany)
Dr Jo Husbands (United States of America) Professor Jorge Guillermo Ibañez Cornejo (Mexico) Mr Amirhossein Imani (Islamic Republic of Iran)
Dr Nancy Jackson (United States of America) Dr Patrick John Lim (Philippines)
Professor Mohd Jamil Maah (Malaysia) Dr Detlef Maennig (Germany)
Professor Peter Mahaffy (Canada) Dr Robert Mathews (Australia)
Professor Temechegn Engida (Ethiopia)
Dr Kabrena Rodda (United States of America) Dr Ting Kueh Soon (Malaysia)
Professor Alejandra Graciela Suarez (Argentina) Professor Leiv K. Sydnes (Norway)
Mr Cheng Tang (China)
Professor Natalia P. Tarasova (Russian Federation)
Dr Christopher Timperley (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) Dr Hans-Georg Weinig (Germany)
Dr Prashant Yajnik (India)
Dr Muhammad Zafar-Uz-Zaman (Pakistan) Professor Zuriati Binti Zakaria (Malaysia)
Mr Muhammad Setyabudhi Zuber (Indonesia)

*“Code” is used as a general term and includes the full range of such documents, from aspirational statements such as the Hippocratic Oath to codes that are enforceable, for example as part of a practitioner’s terms of employment.