Alumni CLASnotes Spring 2006
In This Issue:

Alumni Spotlight

Donald Mock

Donald Mock
Donald Mock
Alumnus Donald Mock has had the kind of career many scientists dream of—including positions at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA/Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He credits his success, in large part, to the education he received as a physics student at UF.

“A lot of people wonder ‘why physics?’ but it turns out physics is really a great background for a variety of scientific, technical and leadership positions,” says Mock, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from UF in 1976 and 1978. “I found the methodical approach to solving problems that I developed as a physics major has been very helpful in all aspects of my career.”
Mock has spent the past 16 years at NOAA, based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the executive director of the new Earth System Research Laboratory. With a team of 650 scientists and support staff, the lab is one of the largest within NOAA and is tasked with improving the nation’s understanding and prediction of weather and climate on regional to global scales.

“We study everything from ‘nowcasting’ to long-range weather prediction and future climate trends,” he says, confirming that global warming is one area currently researched in the government-funded lab. “We try to do the science that will help policy makers make their decisions, but it’s not really within the realm of science to tell policy makers what to do. As executive director, my role is to make sure everything runs smoothly so that our scientists can be left in peace to efficiently do their research.”

In addition to his work for NOAA, Mock is active in the Boulder community. He served on the Boulder City Council from 1996 to 2003, including a stint as deputy mayor from 1999-2001. He stepped down from public office to avoid any potential conflict of interests when he accepted his new position in the higher level of NOAA administration. Volunteerism, however, continues to be an important aspect of Mock’s life, and he is the current president of the Boulder-Dushanbe Sister Cities organization, coordinating outreach efforts to the Tajikistan city.

While a student at UF, Mock was president of the Society of Physics Students, a clarinetist in the Gator Marching Band and treasurer and rush chair of a social fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta. He says these experiences, along with the strong instruction he received from physics professors such as Gene Dunnam, prepared him well for both his career and his civic leadership activities.

“The combination of the rigor of physics and the people skills of all the wonderful organizations on campus has helped me tremendously,” he says. “It gave me the confidence to step up, even though I am an introvert, and go out there and help the community. The two things that have driven me is my love for problem solving and helping people.”

Mock married college sweetheart Anita Colin (BS, Zoology, 1978) in August 1976 in the bottom of Devil’s Millhopper in Gainesville. She received her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in 1985 and now teaches biology at Front Range Community College, after taking several years off from her career to raise their three sons—Daniel, 18; George, 16; and Charles, 8.

Charley and Linda Wells

Charley and Linda Wells
Charley and Linda Wells
In 1969, Linda Fischer was enjoying the single life in Washington, DC. She had completed her undergraduate degree in political science at UF, her master’s degree at the University of Washington, a law degree at George Washington University, and was working as a management intern in the Justice Department.

That January, Charley Wells moved to the city to work for the department in federal tort claims cases. Linda remembered him from her undergraduate days at UF. Both had graduated in 1961 and were very active in student government, but they supported opposing parties on campus. They were acquaintances, but never close friends, let alone a couple. When a mutual friend, who had served as UF’s student body president, told Linda she should go on a date with Charley, she was hesitant.

“I thought, ‘I don’t have anything in common with Charley Wells,’” Linda says. “Really, both our reactions were equally unenthusiastic.”

But after spending time together, they realized they had a lot in common. Both had been married and divorced. They shared passionate pro-civil rights attitudes, enjoyed going to Gator game-listening parties together and having dinners at the homes of fellow UF graduates in the area.

“When Charley and I re-met in Washington, we saw the world in a very similar way and probably because of what we were exposed to at UF,” Linda says. “We fell in love and got married in November 1969 in the party room of my apartment complex.”

Soon after the Wells moved to central Florida to start a family, their first child, a son, was born in 1970. Then both of their daughters were born within the next five years. Despite being busy with babies, Linda returned to work, joining the law firm Carlton Fields. While her children were in high school, she founded the West Orange High School Foundation to raise funds and reach out to alumni. She also has served as chair of the Southern Scholarship Foundation, an organization that provides housing for academically gifted students at Florida universities.

In 1994, Charley was appointed to the Supreme Court of Florida. Linda resigned from the law firm, and the couple moved to Tallahassee. “Sometimes it’s hard to be in the Seminole stronghold, but people in Tallahassee were very welcoming,” Linda says. “And I am very proud of Charley’s work on the court, it really matters.”

Charley, who was Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court in 2000 during the presidential election cases, continues to serve on the court today. Inspired by his work, Linda helped establish the Florida Supreme Court Docent Program and wrote its Mock Oral Argument Program to teach students about the court and allow them to participate as judges and lawyers in mock trials.

Linda also has served on the religion department’s advisory committee at UF since 1989. Now as chair of the committee, she is proud of the department’s growth and achievements, including the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) established last year, and the inaugural conference of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture in April.

“The academic study of religion is a great way to introduce students and all of us to other cultures and social issues,” Linda says. “And UF has become recognized as a real center and has continued to attract people with great intellectual gifts. Honestly, there is nothing more rewarding than being involved with the University of Florida.”

Linda, who was honored in the fall as the college’s first recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Volunteer Award, looks forward to future work with the university and to attending Gator games with all of the members of her expanding family, including her three grandsons who are already proud members of the Gator Nation. “They’ve all learned to say ‘Go Gators,’” Linda says. “That was very important.”

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