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Dr. Robert E. Hughes

Dr. Robert E. Hughes

Dr. Robert E. Hughes -- scientist, educator, government official -- Passed away on April 2, 2017 in his home in Round Hill, Virginia with his family at his side, including his wife of 63 years, Dr. LaVelma J. Hughes. He was 92 years old. Hughes was a native of New York City. Returning to the City at age 17 from Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island he worked at the Bakelite Corporation during the day and attended Cooper Union college at night. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942, serving until 1946. He completed his B.S. at Lehigh University in 1949, and his PhD. in Chemistry at Cornell University in 1952. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling termed work done by Hughes on tetragonal boron with his colleague Dr. J. L. Hoard "one of the best [x-ray] crystal-structure determinations that has ever been made." Hughes was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania from 1953 to 1964, and at Cornell University from 1964 to 1980. He was one of the founders in 1960 of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter at Penn, and directed the Materials Science Center at Cornell from 1968 to 1974. President Ford nominated Hughes, a life-long Democrat, to be Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); the Senate confirmed him and he served in that position from 1974 to 1976. Hughes was subsequently President of Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI) from 1980 to 1997, a non-profit association created by Nobel Laureate Isidor Rabi that managed national research Labs for Government agencies, including: Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy in New York, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the Very Large Array telescopes in New Mexico for the NSF. Over his career Hughes led and participated in U.S. scientific delegations and Commissions; was a member of numerous scientific associations; consulted for research labs of a number of major industries; and was co-founder and editor of the Journal of Solid State Chemistry. He traveled widely, including to the South and North Poles. He felt especially fortunate in being part of the Penn, Cornell and AUI institutions; he valued especially the colleagues, friendships and sense of community that animated them in his time. Hughes is survived by his wife, LaVelma J. Hughes; they met at Cornell in Ithaca as graduate students, and she became a professor of biochemistry. He is survived also by his son Jeffrey L. Hughes and his wife Sheree A. Hughes; four grandchildren, Lauren A. Hughes, Jessica L. Hughes, Eryn L. Hughes and Benjamin C. R. Hughes, of Virginia; and a brother, Thomas J. Collins of New Jersey. "Bob" Hughes was well loved, loved well, and was generous and creative. He was a problem-solver and champion of reason and ideas. He served science and his country and will be deeply missed by family and friends alike. Services will be private.

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