Hendrix Magazine

Dr. Richard Rolleigh

RolleighDr. Richard Rolleigh ’67, professor of physics, has been a member of the Hendrix faculty since 1974. 

What’s next for you?
I have many plans.  I own four acres in the country, so there’s a lot of landscaping for me to do.  I also plan to travel with my wife; we have already planned an African safari.

Aside from that, I’ll be conduct research that I couldn’t do while I was at Hendrix.  I really only need myself and a good library to research general relativity and the theory of gravitation and quantum field theory: the standard model.  Those projects weren’t amenable to undergraduate research, so I put them off.

I’ll also be a physics consultant for weapons development at UT Austin, working on smart missiles, for example. I investigate the physical theory behind their ideas, to see if the application is physically feasible.  They deal with all the grant proposals and paperwork, and I do the physics.  It’s very liberating.

Describe the most memorable moment of your time at Hendrix?
I can’t choose a particular one, but nearly all have occurred in the classroom, or with a small group of students working in the physics study room.  Physics is like art or music: the way you learn relies on having quick access to an expert, to critique you or help you when you’re stumped.  In many of those instances, students have given me a new idea or a new insight.

What is the most significant change you’ve seen at Hendrix during your time on campus?
The change in Hendrix’s culture during my time here has mirrored the broader American and world culture shifts.  Things have become more complicated and difficult.  We’ve burdened ourselves with more complicated administrative chores.  The culture of litigation and government control has led to an increase in bookkeeping.  Students have also gotten less independent.  Parents call me much more now than they used to.

What is something that others would be surprised to find out about you?
I coached youth soccer for 20 years and really enjoyed it.

Why did you choose to teach at Hendrix?
I came because I was offered the job as chair of the department, and I though it would look good on my resume.  It was so much fun that I stayed.  There are so many bright, young people that are enthusiastic.

Where were you when –
The Challenger exploded
Hallway of the old Reynolds building, on my way to class.  Someone told me they’d heard about it on the radio.

You heard Elvis was dead
No idea.  But when I found out JFK was killed, I was in an elevator at the University of Arkansas, as a freshman there.  I remember feeling trapped.

On 9/11
I was in the house working.  My wife’s sister called and told us, and after I found out I went back to work.  I think the U.S. made a mistake in overreacting.

Have you ever been thrown in the fountain?
No – I’ve been threatened, but I counter with the threat of tremendous violent action.  I do not believe unwilling people should be thrown in the fountain.

What is your favorite meal in the cafeteria?
The roast beef, carved fresh out in the middle of the cafeteria.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?
The physics study room, because that’s where most of my memorable moments have happened, and where new ideas originated.  The soccer field is also a favorite, because I started the women’s soccer team there in 1985 and coached it for several years.

If you could do anything over again, what would it be?
That’s a tough question – I’m really happy with myself.  I probably would have started grading papers in a more timely fashion.  I have fixed that in the last eight years or so, and students seem to be happier and work more diligently.  In the short term, they seem to master the material better.