Westmont Magazine Another Honor for Nishimura
In his 26 years at Westmont, Allan Nishimura has received many honors. The first recipient of the Faculty Research Award in 1984, he was named a Professor of the Year in 1998 and a Distinguished Professor in 2003.
In April Nishimura will be installed in the Kathleen Smith chair of natural and behavioral sciences, the first endowed faculty chair in the sciences.
“It is a fitting tribute to someone who has done so much for the sciences at Westmont,” said former Provost Shirley Mullen when she announced the appoint-ment. “You have not only done consistent research, but you have done this in a way that befits a liberal arts college.”
The chair includes a stipend for research. Nishimura has continually been involved in his own work since coming to Westmont and has more than 50 publications on his vita.
Specializing in physical chemistry and molecular spectroscopy, he has received more than 15 external grants, including funding from such sources as the American Chemical Society, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Pittsburgh Conference of National College Grants and the American Physical Society.
Like many Westmont professors, Nishimura routinely includes his students in ongoing research — 56 of his undergraduate chemistry students have been co-authors in his publications over the years. Nishimura’s proteges are regularly and actively sought by the best graduate schools.
“It’s impressive that so many chemistry students have been involved in his research,” Mullen said. “These graduates are now doing significant work in a wide range of areas including scientific research, high school teaching, missionary service and medicine. We all know at least one of the students who benefited from Allan’s summer research program — our own chemistry professor Niva Tro.
“His goal of building a student research program has shaped Allan’s vision of his own vocational calling,” Mullen added. “He has chosen research that can go on in the context of a small liberal arts college with students. At times, his commitment to the program has meant that he has deferred his own sabbaticals to ensure that both the students and faculty in the department are getting what they need.”
Besides his professional work outside the college, Nishimura has worked with the community through the CalSoap Program and various local schools to inspire young people to consider science as a career.
Kathleen Smith left $1.7 million in her will for Westmont when she died in 1988. A longtime neighbor of the college, she hired students to work around the house and was impressed by their character. In 1997, Westmont installed Robert Gundry as the first Kathleen Smith professor of religious studies. But with his retirement and the development of the Robert Gundry chair in biblical studies held by Tremper Longman III, the college decided to award the Smith chair to a professor in the natural and behavioral sciences.