31 Oct Boettcher Scholar’s Career Driven by Love of Science, Logic
But the common thread that unites those pursuits has always been a love of science and logic. It’s a love that has driven the 1962 Boettcher Scholar since his youth and continues to motivate his work as a community volunteer, lecturer and fundraiser in retirement.
Born in Pueblo, Dan moved often during his youth, but he ultimately spent the final years of high school in Denver, where he graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. He recalls coming of age as Sputnik and the resulting space race dominated the American psyche. High-performing students were encouraged to pursue advanced level courses in math and science. It was an area where Dan found a natural aptitude.
“My dad worked at Lockheed Martin, and I kept a three-ring binder of all the launches and successes and failures” he recalls, adding that he also served in the corps of young “Sputnik spotters” on the University of Denver campus when he was a junior high student.
Dan used his Boettcher Scholarship to attend the University of Colorado, where he earned a degree in chemistry. He spent a few years as a chemist for Sherwin-Williams near Oakland, California, before he decided to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry.
He earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Kansas and taught college-level chemistry for several years before developing an interest in computer technology in the late 1970s.
“It was just when personal computers were coming out, and I saw an opportunity to write some of the first educational software,” he recalled.
Dan started a small business writing software, and his products included some of the first graphical laboratory simulations in chemistry. The software venture dominated Dan’s life until his wife, Ann, was transferred to Fort Collins and he once again returned to academia, this time in the engineering department at Colorado State University.
After a brief hiatus, Dan became a technical writer and then a software programmer for a small company in Boulder. He was eventually lured back to teaching, this time in CSU’s chemistry department, where he taught until he retired in 1994.
Retirement has been anything but quiet for Dan, who after moving to Salida five years ago, quickly became involved with the Central Colorado Humanists, a group whose philosophical approach to life focuses on science, rational thought and reason. Dan became president of the group and helped grow its membership to 150.
As part of his work, Dan occasionally gives community lectures about Mars and other science-related topics, allowing him to rekindle the fascination from his youth. Dan also helps the group with fundraising for its scholarship program. Last year the group raised $7,000 – enough to fund seven scholarships for local graduates.
It’s a great way to pay forward his own great fortune as a Boettcher Scholar.
“I don’t think there is any way to really describe adequately the effect the (Boettcher) scholarship had on my personal life,” Dan said, adding that neither of his parents had attended college and affording college would have been a struggle for the family.
In addition to his work with the Central Colorado Humanists, Dan’s hobbies include watercolor painting, playing the cello (a pursuit he took up at the age of 67) and spending time with his family. Dan and his wife have two daughters and two grandchildren.