UC Santa Cruz Chapter Inducts Noted Alum

By Christopher Sanchez 

In June 2013, Wick Haxton will be inducted as an honorary member by the Upsilon of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, class of 1971, Haxton was not able to graduate Phi Beta Kappa because a chapter was not established there until 1986. However, Alexander Grillo, the president of the UC Santa Cruz chapter, noted that “some of our older faculty that have been around for some time actually remembered Haxton as a student. He stood out as an undergraduate, being one of our better students.”

Haxton’s path to membership began with his acceptance of the offer from the national office to become a Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar. Preparing an introduction for Haxton before one of his talks at the University of New Hampshire, Linda Johnson, the current treasurer of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at the University of New Hampshire, noticed that he was not a Phi Beta Kappa member. Therefore, she took the initiative to send a letter to Haxton’s alma mater. As a very informed member of Phi Beta Kappa, Johnson explained in her letter that there was a process by which graduates could be inducted. 

After receiving Johnson’s letter, Grillo assembled his executive committee, a group of faculty that are especially dedicated to Phi Beta Kappa, and began investigating Haxton’s background and accomplishments. Some of Haxton’s noteworthy accomplishments include multiple fellowships in different organizations, among them the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also the recipient of the Hans A. Bethe Prize for his “noteworthy contributions and scientific leadership” and for his work investigating unknown phenomenon beyond the standard model of particle physics. Grillo commented, “When looking down at the list of awards and societies of which he is a fellow, I am aware of those awards, and I am aware of those organizations. So I have an appreciation of what it means to have received those distinctions.” After presenting their findings to all of the members of the local chapter, a unanimous vote was cast to induct Haxton as an alumni member. 

Honorary inductions into Phi Beta Kappa are very rare and are reserved for people that distinguish themselves throughout their career as an emblem of high achievement and excellence. Grillo commented at length on Haxton’s commitment to the advancement of science and science education: 

“The fact that he participated in the visiting scholar program demonstrates he is advancing science education through his visitations to various universities and interacting with students there. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Science. Both of those organizations, as well as the American Physical Society, have a goal of advancing, not only science research, but science education. He is currently an editor of Physics Letters B, which again, purposely disseminates the results of scientific research. Being the editor of a journal like that takes quite a bit of time and does not necessarily advance one’s own personal scientific career that much. So I think those are examples of commitments to spreading scientific knowledge and scientific information to the public.”

What started as a passion ignited in high school by wonderful teachers, blossomed into a vocation during his undergraduate career. On his thoroughly enjoyable experience at UC Santa Cruz, Haxton expressed that he was thankful for the fantastic education he received at the university, saying: “It was really a wonderful place to go to school. It was a new university with all kinds of young, enthusiastic professors. Several of them showed me a great deal of attention and really got me excited about physics and mathematics. It made me very positive about going on and becoming a professional scientist.” 

As a new class of graduates leaves this spring and begins to change the world with their newfound knowledge, the University of California Santa Cruz will honor one of its alumni who did just that. 

Christopher Sanchez is a junior at the University of California, Riverside, majoring in sociology. The University of California, Riverside is home to the Iota of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.