Cover photo for Thomas Allen's Obituary
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1924 Thomas 2015

Thomas Allen

January 20, 1924 — June 28, 2015

Thomas L. Allen of Davis, California, died peacefully in his sleep on June 28, 2015 at his home in Davis, California. He was 91 years old. The son of Glenn Loring Allen and Emma Blanchard Allen, he was born in San Jose, California, on January 20, 1924. He grew up on a fruit ranch (apricots, prunes, peaches, and walnuts) near Santa Clara, attending Santa Clara High School and the University of California, Berkeley. In February, 1944, he received the B.S. degree in Chemistry and, through the Naval R.O.T.C program, a commission as Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Following submarine schools in San Diego, California, and New London, Connecticut, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Bluefish. He completed three successful war patrols in the Western Pacific Ocean, in areas ranging from Japanese coastal waters south to what is now Indonesia, and was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade).

Following World War II he attended the California Technical Institute in Pasadena, California, where he received the Ph. D. degree in Chemistry in 1949. Professor Don M. Yost was his research director. His first teaching job was as an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, 1948 - 49. He then joined the faculty at the University of California, Davis, where he remained (except for one year at what is now Chevron Research Corp. in Richmond, California, 1951 - 52) until his retirement. He was a Lecturer in Chemistry, 1949 - 1951, Assistant Professor 1952 - 57, Associate Professor 1957 - 63, and Professor 1963 - 1993. Although he retired in 1993, he remained active in research for another ten years.

His main fields were Inorganic Chemistry and Physical Chemistry. Early interests were the kinetics of electron transfer reactions in solution, isotope effects on reaction rates (with Dr. Jacob Bigeleisen at Brookhaven National Laboratory), and the chemistry of metallic halides. His long-term interest in chemical bonding led to studies of the apparent variations in the energies of chemical bonds, shown to be caused by second-order interactions of next-nearest neighbors. This work led to an analysis, with Professor Harrison Shull at Indiana University, which showed how the classical chemical bond is the natural result of the quantum-mechanical interactions of the electrons and nuclei in a molecule. Later studies utilized computers to model various small molecules and transition states. This work was done in collaboration with Professor Henry F. Schaefer at UC Berkeley, and later with his colleagues William H. Fink and Phillip P. Power, at UC Davis. Sabbatical leaves included Indiana University (twice), where he worked with Shull, the University of Nottingham in England, where he worked with Professor George G. Hall on the application of the Monte Carlo method to solving the Schroedinger equation for the helium atom, Monash University in Australia, and UC Berkeley (where he worked with Schaefer).

Always very interested in teaching, he taught the introductory courses in general and analytical chemistry, the junior-level courses in inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry, and the graduate course in quantum chemistry. He and Raymond M. Keefer coauthored a general chemistry textbook, "Chemistry: Experiment and Theory," published in 1974 (second edition in 1982). Major adoptions included Harvard University and the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, as well as UC Davis.

Honors included selection by the students as the Picnic Day Parade Marshal in 1976; the first Magnar Ronning Award for Teaching Excellence in the Sciences, presented by the Associated Students of UC Davis in 1977; and Marshal of the 1997 College of Letters and Science Commencement. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the Society of Sigma Xi (a scientific research society), U. S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, and the Sierra Club.

The Academic Senate was a major activity for many years. In 1969 - 70 Dr. Allen served as Chairperson of the Universitywide Committee on Educational Policy, where he led a successful fight against the imposition of tuition fees on UC students. As a member of the Universitywide Committee on Privilege and Tenure he helped pass a new bylaw which guarantees the right of faculty members to vote on appointments and promotions at the departmental level. As a member of the Universitywide Committee on Faculty Welfare, he helped to improve the University's retirement system, and to begin a program of seismic upgrades of University building construction. At various times he served as Chair of the Davis division and Chair of the Davis Division's Committee on Academic Personnel, and as a member of its forerunner, the Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations. He also served as Chair of the Faculty of the College of Letters and Science, and as Chair of the College's Special Committee on the Educational Process, which among other things revamped the college-wide breadth requirements, and introduced the modification of letter grades by pluses and minuses, a system now in use on all UC campuses.

In July, 1944, he married the love of his life, Patricia Eileen Powers, whom he met when they were undergraduates at UC Berkeley, at a ceremony near her home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. They had been married for 70 years.

His main interest was always his family. They spent a lot of time camping and hiking in the Sierras, particularly in the Yosemite area. In spite of his muscle weakness from a case of polio in 1950, he and his wife climbed Mt. Hoffman twice (once with their children) and Vogelsang Peak, ascended the Mist Trail, and reached Hanging Basket Lake near Vogelsang. He was also an avid cyclist and frequently biked to Winters and beyond. On two occasions he completed the 100 km event of the Davis Bike Club's Fall Century. Other hobbies included travel, reading, music, and photography. Events in the life of the family are now chronicled in an extensive slide collection and set of motion picture films.

In 2013, Dr. Allen published a book of memoirs, "Growing up in the Santa Clara Valleya�" From Picking Prunes to Submarine Service", which is available from or

In addition to his wife Patricia, survivors include their children Kathleen Rodgers of Nelson, British Columbia; Tim Allen and his wife Shona of Medford, Oregon; Jacquelyn and her husband John Trautt of Long Beach, California; Diana Kay, the widow of their son Keith (who died in 2004 at age 50), of Woodstock, Vermont; Keith's former wife Jane Allard Allen of Petaluma, California; grandchildren Dawn Rodgers; Russell Rodgers and his wife, Jill; Keith Rodgers and his wife Naoko; Colton Allen and his wife Tiffany; Jason, RenAC., and Logan Allen; Rael and her husband Jesse Hodges; Brianne Island Smith and her husband Robin Smith; Janine Island; Adrienne and her husband Sam Gonzales; Jess and Lee Trautt; Tom Allen and his wife Serena; Jackson Allen and his wife Tahkus; Linea Kay; great grandchildren Lila Taylor; Emma and Delaney Gonzales; Riley Smith; Etta Allen; Zaria Allen; Ali, Saya, and Laika Rodgers; brothers-in-law John E. "Jack" Powers of Cary, North Carolina; and James R. Powers and his wife MaryAnn of Gig Harbor, Washington; sister-in-law Judith and her husband Gary Howard of Moraga, California; and 20 nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by a sister, Peggy Steacy, of Cupertino, California; brothers Glenn Loring Allen, Jr., of Walnut Creek, California; Judge Bruce F. Allen of Los Gatos, California; and Kenneth L. Allen, M.D., of Hillsborough, California; and sister-in-law, Kathleen Harris of Livermore, California.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 29, 2015 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 27074 Patwin Road, Davis, CA 95616 at 3:00 PM. Reception immediately following.

As an expression of sympathy, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to either the Sierra Club or the charity of your choice.

Previous Events

Saturday, August 29, 2015
3:00 PM
Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis

27074 Patwin Rd
Davis, CA 95616

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