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FLC News
Lab partners with a purpose

Lab partners with a purpose

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Like many 18-year-olds, Carl Sims (Chemistry, ’72) wasn’t “grown up enough” to know what path to follow after high school. He took some classes at Indiana University in 1965 before getting drafted to the Navy. After marrying Lynn, his sister’s college roommate, in 1971, the newlyweds transferred to Fort Lewis College to complete their undergraduate degrees. Lynn pursued teaching, while Carl fell into a groove with the Chemistry Department, where he befriended Richard Senne (Chemistry, ’72).

Besides fishing and meatloaf sandwiches, Senne and Sims shared a common interest in the Chemistry Department’s sparse instrumentation. Their advisor, John Ritchey, encouraged the young men to learn within the limits of the departmental budget, something they discovered to be paltry when it came to the costs associated with operations and repairs of the delicate equipment. They mused that someday it would be nice to give money to FLC’s Chemistry Department.

Little did the aspiring chemists know how their journey together would eventually lead to that very thing. Both went on to attend the chemistry graduate program at Northern Arizona University. Sims received his master's degree in Chemistry in 1975 and found work at the Indiana State Chemist’s Office on the Purdue campus.

The following year, Senne was dealt a terrible blow when he found out he had cancer. After the initial surgery, he completed his thesis research at NAU and then joined Sims in his work at Purdue, but the cancer raged on. On January 16, 1978, two years after his diagnosis, Senne passed away.

Before he died, Senne had signed up for a hefty life insurance policy. He had expressed to Sims that he still hoped to create a scholarship for FLC Chemistry students, so Sims passed this wish onto Senne’s parents. After donating two-thirds of Senne’s life insurance money to further cancer research, the Sennes used the remainder to create FLC’s Richard Senne Scholarship.

"Our FLC advisor, John Ritchey, always taught us that when things got tough, you should do the next thing. This was the next best thing to do."

CARL SIMS

“Our FLC advisor, John Ritchey, always taught us that when things got tough, you should do the next thing,” says Sims. “This was the next best thing to do.”

In the same exploratory spirit of his days spent in FLC’s Chemistry Department, Sims went on to become a pioneer in the early development of the most popular analytical chemistry techniques on the planet. He’s currently Principal Scientist for IDEX Health & Science, a company that specializes in developing front-end instrumentation and subsystems for RNA and DNA analysis. Sims holds at least 53 patents in analytical chemistry, including many for the liquid chromatograph, an essential part of the instrumentation used in the current antibody tests for COVID-19.

In 2019, the Sims family returned to Durango after a 45-year hiatus. They recently built their dream home replete with a birds-eye view of the FLC campus, where Sims once made a lifelong friend and helped pave a way for future chemistry students to discover their own purposeful paths.

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