SOU Faculty Member Honors Father’s Legacy

Jim Hatton, retired mathematics instructor at SOU, continues his commitment to the university and to academic excellence with philanthropic gifts to the university. The creation of an endowment fund for the Chemistry Program honors the legacy of his father, Roger E. Hatton.

In 2018, Jim dedicated the endowment to his father during a special ceremony honoring the creation of the new fund. Jim shared details about his father’s work and commitment to the discipline. “I’m glad I got to affirm my dad publicly, and I wanted to make sure people knew the person whose name was on the endowment,” he said. “These small connections are meaningful and give students a sense of continuity.”

For Chemistry Program Chair Hala Schepmann, the creation of the Hatton endowment has made possible the establishment of the SOU Chemistry Summer Research Program.

Roger E. Hatton was born in 1918 to a poor family. He worked his way through the University of Omaha as a night watchman and later earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from Purdue University in 1944. Dr. Hatton worked on the Manhattan Project until the end of World War II and transitioned to Monsanto, where he co-authored patents on synthetic functional fluids, including one which became SkyDrol, a flame-resistant hydraulic fluid that is used in the airline industry.

Despite his father’s busy professional life, Jim recalls a dedicated father and husband who worked hard and treated people with kindness his entire life. “I attempt to honor him every day by my actions,” Jim said.

Jim retired from SOU earlier this year after more than a decade at the university. During that time, he met many chemistry instructors and students and has always been impressed with the caliber of the faculty and the achievements of the students while at SOU and after graduation.

For Schepmann, the endowment came at a critical moment for the program. “At a time when hands-on opportunities are harder to come by, we are able to expand our offerings because of Jim Hatton’s generous contributions in honor of his father,” she said.

A love of chemistry runs deep in the Hatton family. Jim’s wife Ruth Woudenberg studied chemistry at SOU before they were married. “I have seen over the years that it is a rigorous, high-quality program,” said Jim. “Besides, chemistry departments can always use extra money. They can use this endowment for whatever they need it for. No strings attached.”

He said SOU is a great university to support overall, not just the Chemistry Program. “The small classes and individual mentoring make it special,” he said. “You can walk through campus, say hello to your students and colleagues and help one another. I like that.”