Saying goodbye to Hodge

January 24, 2007

Williams College, my alma mater, lost one of its most distinguished alumni and emeritus faculty earlier this month when J. Hodge Markgraf ’52 succumbed to an apparent heart attack.

I’m not really qualified to comment on Hodge’s research output. He authored papers like Substituent effects on 15N and 13C NMR chemical shifts of 3-phenylisoxazoles: a theoretical and spectroscopic study, and when I see a title like that, I don’t bother continuing on to the Abstract. I knew Hodge as the guy who taught me Organic Chemistry in the spring of 1995. He had a child’s enthusiasm and an expert’s knowledge, and both traits were frequently evident in the off-the-wall things he said during lecture and lab. I enjoyed these spontaneous outbursts so much that I collected many of them in a Hodge quote board.

In rereading these quotes, I’m struck once again by how effortlessly and how passionately Hodge connected chemistry with sports, music, cooking, geography, etc. Just listen to him weigh in on labs that are set up ahead of time versus labs requiring that you do everything yourself:

It’s like a Duncan Hines cake mix. You bring it home, mix it up, and by gosh you’ve got muffins. And they’re the same muffins you got last week and the same muffins you get next week. And some people call that cooking! But scratch is always better. Scratch is always better.

Last week, as a small nod to the bow tie-wearing professor, I made a dinner featuring farfalle, the bow tie-shaped pasta. Many would consider this a ridiculous tribute, but somehow I think that Hodge, the master of surprising juxtapositions, would have approved.


  1. A terrific teacher. He'll be missed.

  2. … "Farfalle" is a lovely tribute… (literally "butteflies" hence the bow-tie shape…)I enjoyed all and especiallY:On how a reaction won't happen if the two reactants don't meet:"It's like, you go to one stadium, and your friend goes to a different stadium, and there's no game."

  3. It's nice to have someone write this on the internet. I worked with him on our last paper (mentioned above) and I spoke to him a few days before his passing. I miss him terribly.

  4. I had the pleasure of having Hodge teach Organic Chemistry at MCLA last year. It was only by chance that he ended up teaching at my college. Even though he was from Williams he never made his small class of students at MCLA feel any less important. It truly made me sad to know of his passing, and somewhere he should know I am grateful for his teaching. Without him I wouldn't be teaching chemistry to my middle school students. Thanks Hodge and God Speed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: