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Tombrello Awarded First Feynman Teaching Prize

May 26, 1994 PASADENA - The Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, established last year through a gift from Caltech Associates Ione and Robert E. Paradise, has been awarded to its first recipient, Caltech Professor of Physics Thomas Tombrello. The honor will be presented annually to a professor who has demonstrated "unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in teaching." The award consists of a $3000 prize, matched by an equivalent increase in the awardee's salary.

In honoring Tombrello, the Feynman Prize selection committee said that "throughout his career, Professor Tombrello has abundantly demonstrated the qualities that define the prize. The Institute is very fortunate to have a teacher and mentor of his quality."

The committee took particular note of two innovative undergraduate courses that Tombrello has introduced to the Caltech curriculum. The first, "Frontiers in Physics," is a weekly seminar in which faculty members who use physics frequently in their research, talk about their work. The class is intended to give students an up-to-date perspective on the discipline and its applications, as well as an appreciation of what it means to use and practice physics. The second course, "Research Topics in Physics," expands on this theme, enabling a small number of highly motivated freshmen to design and pursue their own physics projects and to experience firsthand some of the challenges, frustrations, and rewards of actual research.

Tombrello joined Caltech's faculty as a research fellow in 1961 after earning his BA in 1958 and his PhD in 1961 from Rice University, and was named assistant professor of physics in 1965, becoming a full professor in 1971. His research interests include ion-beam analysis and modification of materials, and dynamical studies of ion-solid interactions.

Ione and Robert E. Paradise are members of the President's Circle of the Caltech Associates. She is a UCLA graduate and a past president of the California division of the American Association of University Women. He holds an AB and JD from Stanford and has specialized in oil and gas law. He practiced law in Los Angeles with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher from 1929 to 1937, served as assistant general counsel of Richfield Oil Corporation from 1937 to 1944, and, after 20 years in private practice, was general counsel of the Ralph M. Parsons Company from 1966 to 1974, when he retired. He has been involved in the acquisition and development of oil and gas properties and was half-owner of and counsel to Anacapa Oil Corporation.