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New professorship honors Mark and Nancy Ratner

Renowned chemistry professor and spouse were celebrated at a special ceremony

Mark and Nancy Ratner

EVANSTON - For 43 years, materials chemist Mark A. Ratner ’69 PhD has served on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Now a new endowed professorship will honor his legacy in perpetuity.

The Mark and Nancy Ratner Professorship was established this spring in recognition of a $2 million gift to Weinberg College from Ratner, his wife, Nancy, and his brothers and sisters-in-law, Charles and Ilana Horowitz Ratner, James and Susan Ratner, and Ronald and Deborah Ratner (’06, ’14 P). The gift is part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.

The professorship was supported in part by alumni Patrick G. ’59, ’09 H and Shirley W. Ryan ’61 (’97, ’00 P) through the Ryan Family Chair Challenge, which matches gifts made by other Northwestern supporters to establish new endowed professorships or chairs.

“Through decades of service to the College and incredible contributions to the field of materials chemistry, Mark has made a lasting impression on the University, and it is fitting that a professorship bear the Ratner name,” Weinberg College Dean Adrian Randolph said. “I am grateful to both the Ratner and Ryan families for their continued support of the University’s research and teaching mission.”

Emily Weiss ’05 PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and former student of Ratner’s, was invested as the inaugural Ratner Professor in a ceremony in Harris Hall on June 6.

“I can think of no greater honor than the distinction of being the Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor,” Weiss said. “And it’s even more special given that Mark is one of my primary influences, as a scientist and as a person. The Ratners have always been so generous to Mark’s students and colleagues and have always made them feel like family. This is just another example of that generosity.”

In June 2017, Weiss led the creation of a gift fund to support a recurring lecture series within the Department of Chemistry called the Mark A. Ratner Series of Scholars. The series fosters interdisciplinary thinking by inviting speakers in the arts, literature, humanities and other areas. Rachel Armstrong, professor of experimental architecture at Newcastle University, gave the first lecture April 9. More than 40 members of the Northwestern community, including the Ratner family, have made gifts to the department in support of the lecture series. Individuals wishing to support the lecture series may make a gift online at wewill.northwestern.edu/Ratner.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Mark Ratner earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1964 and Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern in 1969. Since joining the Northwestern faculty in 1975, he has served as chair of the Department of Chemistry, co-director of the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), and associate dean and interim dean of Weinberg College. Ratner is now the Lawrence B. Dumas Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering. He also serves as co-chair of the University’s annual Faculty and Staff Campaign, supporting the “We Will” Campaign.

“Nancy and I decided to establish the Ratner Professorship to support the work of faculty members who are committed to improving the lives of their students through teaching and research,” Mark Ratner said. “It’s important to our family that we make the world a better place.”

Ratner has authored more than 800 publications and authored or edited nine books. Considered a major contribution to the molecular electronics field, his 1974 paper on molecular rectifiers with former graduate student Ari Aviram has been cited more than 4,000 times.

Ratner is a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Physical Society. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences. He has received numerous honors and awards, including honorary doctorates from the University of Copenhagen and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2014, Ratner won the Weinberg College Alumni Merit Award for high achievement in a profession or field from the Northwestern Alumni Association. 

Nancy Ratner grew up in Rhode Island. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brown University and a master’s degree in education from National Louis University. After teaching middle school in Highland Park, Ill., for 24 years, she now volunteers with Nichols Middle School in Evanston. 

“Northwestern is a wonderful university with a high quality of education for all students, and at its heart is the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences,” Nancy Ratner said. “Such a high degree of excellence is well worth supporting.”

The Ratners, of Glencoe, have two children, Stacy and Daniel, and two grandchildren.

The funds raised through the “We Will” Campaign are helping realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidifying the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities. More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at wewill.northwestern.edu.

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