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Never Forgetting a Mentor: Buhrke Honors G.L. Clark

Victor and Janet BuhrkeWhen asked about events that lead to a particular path in life, some point to the impact of a single individual. For Dr. Victor Buhrke, an Illinois graduate in chemistry whose education and talent has lead him to high-level positions within the DuPont Company, RCA, and Picker X-Ray, that person was none other than his graduate advisor, Dr. George Lindenberg Clark.

Buhrke obtained his B.S. in chemistry in 1950, and was accepted into the graduate program that same year, where he started working with G.F. Smith. In 1952 he transferred to Dr. George Lindenberg Clark's group. Known as "G.L." to his students, Clark became a faculty member in chemistry in 1927. An established leader in the chemical field, he created the first analytical x-ray laboratory in the United States at the University. According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), he studied and became an expert in the "application of x-rays in science, industry and medicine" while at Illinois. Utilizing x-rays, he undertook stress analyses to discover whether certain metals were defective. The ACS also notes that in 1945 he undertook the development of an x-ray tube that, in extremes, could withstand the heat created by exposure to more than 50,000 volts of electricity. Using this tube, Clark could take x-ray pictures in mere seconds, rather than in minutes, as had previously been required.

Following in Clark's footsteps, Buhrke made numerous advances in the field of x-ray fluorescence and x-ray diffraction, most significantly in the areas of research, engineering, applications, training, consulting, and management. He served as chief editor for landmark texts, the chief engineer and manager of the Picker Analytical and Nuclear Division, and started his own company. He co-edited the book A Practical Guide for the Preparation of Specimens for X-Ray Fluorescence and X-Ray Diffraction Analysis, which is considered a landmark in the field. For his numerous contributions, he received the prestigious Jenkins Award in 2005.

Throughout his many successes, however, Buhrke never forgot the difference that his graduate advisor had made in his life, from offering leadership and insight during his academic years at Illinois, to providing a key recommendation that helped Buhrke secure a job at RCA in the early portion of his career.

To honor Clark, and to memorialize his legacy in Illinois chemistry for years to come, Buhrke and his wife, Janet, chose to commemorate their friend with a gift that rededicated the main lecture hall, 100 Noyes Laboratory, as G. L. Clark Hall. Refurbished and redesigned, G.L. Clark Hall now is providing space for the education of thousands of students each year with state-of-the-art technology, new seating and equipment, and other innovative features that will aid in teaching many facets of chemical knowledge.

"We gain immense satisfaction in knowing that G.L. will be memorialized with his name and image appearing in perpetuity at the entrance and within 100 Noyes," said Buhrke. "We hope that all students who have the privilege of hearing lectures in Clark Hall will honor his memory with us."

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