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Black, Rubins honored for service to Physics, University

Truman Black, left, and Roy Rubins with their wives, Margie Black and Pat Rubins.
Truman Black, left, and Roy Rubins with their wives, Margie Black and Pat Rubins, at the retirement reception.

Truman Black and Roy Rubins, two pioneering members of the Department of Physics faculty - as well as longtime friends and collaborators - were saluted for their contributions to the University at a retirement reception on August 26.

Colleagues and friends gathered in the Rio Grande Ballroom of the E.H. Hereford University Center to reminisce about the duo’s careers and share personal memories of their days in the lab and classroom.

Those who addressed the gathering included Alex Weiss, physics chair and professor; Dean Pamela Jansma; Samar Mohanty, assistant professor of physics; Ping Liu, professor of physics; and John Fry, retired professor and former chair of physics. They spoke fondly of Rubins and Black, who endured some good-natured ribbing during the proceedings.

“Both Truman and Roy played critical roles in inaugurating experimental physics research at UTA,” said Weiss in his opening remarks. “According to the records I found, some written on clay tablets, Truman joined the faculty in 1965 - the first year that UTA was UTA. It had just joined the UT system and made the transition to a full-fledged university, having formerly been part of Texas A&M. Roy joined the faculty a few years later, in 1969. They have had a long record of highly productive collaboration. I counted 15 major publications on which they are co-authors, and numerous others in which Truman has acknowledged Roy and Roy has acknowledged Truman.

“Their characteristics and contributions were truly unique and truly complementary-making for perhaps the optimum in true collaboration where the whole is much greater than just the sum of the parts, or as we would say in physics, a non-linear phenomena.”

Black, a Houston native, earned a B.S. from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. from Rice University in 1964, and then went to work for Texas Instruments in Dallas. A year later, he realized his true calling was in education and research, and he joined UT Arlington’s faculty.

Rubins was born in Manchester, England and earned a B.A. (1957), M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1964) from Oxford University. He did two years of post-doctoral work in Israel, then did more post-doc work at Syracuse University and worked as an assistant professor in residence at UCLA before coming to UT Arlington.

Weiss noted that Black helped bring in millions of dollars to the department in the form of grants and in-kind contributions. Black was instrumental in the creation and development of the department’s graduate program.

“As the author of over 100 journal and conference publications, Truman’s activities have contributed critically to the department’s transition into a full doctoral level research intensive department emphasizing both undergraduate and graduate education,” Weiss said.

Black supervised the dissertation and thesis research of five doctoral students and 23 master’s students, and mentored dozens of undergraduate students. He was also a great mentor to faculty, Weiss noted.

“He was always generous with his time and equipment, although he always made sure he got the latter returned, and was instrumental in helping many of us in this room, myself included, get started in our research careers,” Weiss said.

Black served as president of Sigma Xi, the honor society for scientists, where he helped to establish the Annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (SURCA) program. He also served as chair of the University Library Committee and worked to establish a research collection to support growing graduate programs at UT Arlington.

Rubins is internationally known for his experimental and theoretical contributions in electron magnetic resonance (EMR) of organic and inorganic crystals and compounds, Weiss noted.

"Following the discovery of high temperature superconductors, Roy carried out modulated microwave absorption studies of these materials, and of Josephson junctions, and, with Truman, extended the technique to study the elemental superconductors, mercury and lead," Weiss said. "Of the over 60 research publications and abstracts he has published in top journals in Physics and Chemical Physics,many are recognized as classics in the field due to their fundamental nature and copious citations.

"In addition to his pioneering research, Roy has always shown great dedication to classroom teaching, constantly working to update and improve his courses. His devotion to his students and to his classroom teaching always placed him in great demand as a teacher in both our introductory and upper level classes."

Rubins was named the 1998 College of Science Teacher of the Year and, in the same year, was elected to the UT Arlington Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He chaired the department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for many years and was a key contributor, “bringing the joys of science and physics to thousands of non-major undergraduates who never thought they would learn about them, and to the program for undergraduate physics majors,” Weiss noted.

Several of the speakers noted the pair’s athletic achievements. Both were accomplished athletes since their youth, Black in sports including football, volleyball and tennis, and Rubins in soccer, tennis and rugby, among other sports.

In their own remarks, both Black and Rubins noted how much the College and University had changed since their arrival over 40 years ago. They spoke of how they clicked right away when Rubins arrived in 1969, and began a decades-long collaboration which produced important and groundbreaking research. They thanked friends and family for their support and for allowing them to pursue their dreams of being teachers and researchers, and they thanked colleagues for helping them push the department to prominence.

While they get on well as friends and collaborators, many noted the pair could hardly by more different in terms of working style. Black’s labs were known as places of organized chaos; while appearing untidy to outsiders, everything had its place and Black always knew exactly where to find everything. Rubins, colleagues noted, was known for his orderly style and for his meticulous preparation.

“If I wanted to find Truman for any reason, I would just step out in the hallway and listen for his voice,” Weiss said. “I could locate him sonically no matter where I was or where Truman was in Science Hall. If I wanted to find Roy, I knew to look either in his classroom, his office or in the Physics library, where he would inevitably be working on his class notes.”

Black and Rubins were also presented with gifts and mementos, including plaques bearing their names and years of service to the University.