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Positive Feedback ISSUE 68
july/august 2013


Dave Glackin Memorial Scholarship Fund Now Established
David W. Robinson & Kathryn McEachern Glackin, with an assist to Ray Chowkwanyun


[Long-time readers of PFO will remember Dave Glackin, a long-time member of our writing community who passed away last year. (See my memorium on Dave's passing away in Issue 60 at .) Dave and I had been friends for a very long time…back into the early ‘90s…and he had been a champion writer for us all along. I still miss him, as do all of us who knew this wonderful man.

I am delighted to say that his family, friends, and colleagues have established a scholarship fund in his memory at Caltech. His dear wife Kathryn has sent out a letter describing this fund, which I publish below and commend to all PFO readers most heartily, without further comment.

Dr. David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief, Positive Feedback Online]

Dear friends and family,

I'm happy to say that Dave's memorial scholarship is now underway at Caltech. The official title is: "David L. Glackin Memorial SURF Endowment." I know that everyone is facing their own set of financial priorities. So I want to stress that any contribution you are able to make to this fund is deeply appreciated.


Donations are, of course, 100% tax deductible. But unlike other institutions, there is no "drop down" menu on the website for named donations or endowments. You have to manually ADD DAVE's NAME TO THE FORM: e.g., "David L. Glackin, SURF Endowment".


The secure website:

a) There are 3 categories on the main page. Choose SPECIAL GIFTS. Then, under DESIGNATIONS, choose SURF.

b) There is a standard payment page. MOST IMPORTANT: there is a box for ADDITIONAL INFO. That is where you type: "David L. Glackin, SURF Endowment".


If you prefer to send a check, please make it payable to Caltech. Somewhere on the check, please make a notation: "David L. Glackin, SURF Endowment".

Mailing Address:

Ms. Alicia Pilon
Senior Director of Development
California Institute of Technology
MC 5-32
Pasadena, CA 91125


Caltech has spent a great deal of time educating me about Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF). Tom Soifer, Division Chair of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy, has been especially helpful, since he knew Dave personally.

SURF was established in 1979 in order to create financial independence from outside (federal) funding. One of the founders was Hal Zirin. As many of you already know, Dave studied under Professor Zirin at the Big Bear Solar Observatory during his undergraduate summers. I'm "virtually certain" (as Dave was fond of saying) that if the program had been available while Dave was at Caltech (1974 grad), he would have been a SURF-er.

SURF is a highly structured, 10-week summer program with tremendous faculty involvement and oversight. They have an Administrative Committee and a SURF Board (who says scientists don't have a sense of humor?). This year, there are 410 SURF scholars. Some of them are from other institutions, but only Caltech students are eligible for SURF stipends.

The program is specifically designed to help undergrads become familiar with the scientific grant process. Toward that end, they must first convince a faculty mentor that their research idea has merit. Then, the students write a proposal (similar to a grant proposal) which is reviewed by a second Professor in the same department. Grant proposals are ranked, and there is an 85% acceptance rate. Endowments are currently $125,000, with a $6000 annual stipend to help defray summer expenses. 


Thank you very much for considering a donation to Dave's SURF Endowment. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but he would be beyond thrilled to have a permanent home at Caltech, and the SURF program is a perfect fit. As many of you have pointed out to me, Dave's undergraduate research had a profound impact on his life. What you may not know, is that one of the last events Dave attended was the annual SURF dinner in late February 2012, shortly before his unexpected death on March 3. I picked him up from Caltech after that event, and he was simply aglow... as only Dave could be. So I know firsthand that he felt deeply connected to this group. And I feel very strongly that creating a SURF endowment is a fantastic way to honor his memory. 

Thank you again,

Kathryn McEachern Glackin