In 2008, technology pioneer Jack Melchor ’48 and his wife Norma, a former nurse, pledged a $1 million gift to the College of Arts and Sciences to establish an endowed chair to attract or retain a distinguished teacher and scholar in the department of physics and astronomy.

When a letter from then physics and astronomy chair Laurie McNeil arrived in his mailbox in 2006, Jack was impressed that Carolina had named a woman to chair the department.

“There was only one girl in my physics program in the 1940s,” Melchor said.

“The Melchors are giving us the opportunity to attract an outstanding scientist and educator at the most exciting stage in her or his career, when the early promise has borne fruit but there are still many exciting discoveries to come,” McNeil said.  “Their gift will also help us attract excellent graduate students, the lifeblood of all science research.”

The Melchors of Los Altos, Calif., met in 1944 while Jack Melchor was on leave from military duty.  After marrying in 1946, the Melchors moved to Chapel Hill so Jack could complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics while Norma worked at Duke University Hospital.

After Jack earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1953 at Notre Dame University, the couple moved to California where Melchor had a job at Sylvania Electronic Defense Labs.  Within three years he’d started his own company, Melabs, and by 1959, with six patents in microwave technology, he retired—the first of four times.  In 1961, he founded Hewlett-Packard Associates.  As manager of their Palo Alto division, Melchor oversaw the development of the first computer, marketed under $10,000.  Until he retired for good in 1990, Melchor’s talent for business development kept him in demand as a consultant worldwide.

Melchor Distinguished Professor

2012 – Present:  Joaquín Drut