Jerrold L. McNatt, Ph.D.
Years at Gordon: 1971-2006
Curt Cole, Ph.D., class of 1974
Looking back over my life I can clearly see several individuals that were pivotal to my decisions and education that set in motion the events that have given me a successful and challenging career. Jerry McNatt, the toughest and most rigorous physics teacher I could imagine--I mean this from the academic side only--was one of them. I have to admit, I struggled with quantum mechanics, Eigen values, and all the "Modern" physics that Jerry taught, but in my struggles, I discovered that he was there to help you through the tough stuff, always willing to take the time to help you understand, giving the extra mile to help you understand. Jerry, thank you for helping me, as a student, as a fellow Christian, and now as a mentor to other young "students" in my job. You have been a truly successful teacher.
David Ekholm, class of 1974
I remember working one summer in the Physics Department and living in the dorm by myself. Dr. McNatt and his wife helped ease my loneliness and poor nutrition by inviting me for a home cooked meal once a week for the whole summer. I remember his understanding when I was suffering from a terrible bout of Senioritis and never finished my Senior Project. He probably should have failed me but he gave me a break and let me pass. I wish him the best of luck in his retirement.
Tom Askew, class of 1977
Anyone who knows Jerry McNatt well knows that he experiences little difficulty in expressing himself in matters scientific, political and economic, or even about administrative issues at Gordon and elsewhere. He speaks directly about most issues, usually accompanied with plenty of evidence or relevant experiences. He also cares deeply about students, both as members of the Body of Christ, and as educational charges for which he readily accepts a deep personal responsibility.
Roger Shelton, class of 1977
I'll be honest, I was never very… comfortable with calculus and I was struggling with Calc I. I remember sitting in class, feverishly copying everything the professor was writing on the board, believing… hoping that I'd be able to sit down, after class and decode it all. I even copied stray chalk marks, just to be certain I got everything that was important. I instantly think of Dr. McNatt, when a student asks me for help. I learned that students deserved our time and encouragement. I learned that there is nothing more important than a student seeking help. Nothing that a teacher is doing is more important, than that! And I learned this from Dr. McNatt; he never said it, but he lived it and I learned from his role modeling. Thank you, Dr McNatt for all of your help.
Wendy (Shaw) Ytterboe, class of 1977
I think I enjoyed mostly when you would share more of yourself and talk of Jolene, your dogs, and life outside of Gordon. The most striking conversation and revelation though came when after graduating I reported back about my first job offer, which really wasn't much. You admitted it was more than you made as a professor at Gordon, -PhD and all. I was more impressed and amazed that someone of your stature and capabilities would work for so 'little'. I knew then it wasn't the money that motivated you, but the love of the students, teaching, and physics. That was a real encouragement to me.
Leonard Wibberly, class of 1985
I was pretty certain that even at a relatively small Christian college I would be just another name and number, essentially blending anonymously into the crowd. I found myself amazed at how warm and personable the faculty were, particularly Dr. McNatt and Tony Castro, how much they welcomed visits from the students and were eager (particularly Dr. McNatt ) to talk about just about any topic under the sun (at great length and with incredible acumen as it turned out ). Beyond that, they actually wanted to know about me as an individual and what my hopes and dreams were. This was precisely the atmosphere I needed to flourish and bloom in areas I would have been too timid to in a different setting.
Ted Sider, class of 1988
I appreciated, and still appreciate, your enthusiasm about physics and teaching, and your devotion to Gordon students. Your office was always open to me when I had questions, and you brought intelligence and wisdom to the classroom. I loved being a physics major at Gordon, and look back on that time with fond memories. You taught us how to think hard and carefully. Congratulations on all that you have accomplished at Gordon, and best wishes for the future!
Heather (Nissley) Kara, class of 1989
In recalling my years spent at Gordon College, my greatest appreciation is for the teaching staff, who aimed to see the students excel. Dr. McNatt was no exception. I felt doubly fortunate to be a student of Dr. McNatt's. Not only did he know his material, including related current events, but I personally benefited from his patience, respect and encouragement. Sometimes, I didn't feel I deserved patience, respect or encouragement. However, he always provided it. I may not be using much Physics today, but I now see that the value in a degree is not the degree itself, but the journey required to get that degree-to learn how to learn, to find your own self worth, and to open the mind to all possibilities. I would just like to express my thanks to Dr. McNatt for being a major instrument in that journey.
Tedd Dideriksen, class of 1990
My time at Gordon was an excellent time and my appreciation for the dedication of professors like you continues to grow even after all these years. Working for Microsoft I come in contact with many very intelligent people who have attended some of the most prestigious universities in the world. None of these people had the relationship with their professors that I had at Gordon. In most cases they hardly knew the actual professors, but instead spent their time working with graduate students. When I think back to the Optics course I took my last semester at Gordon and the fact that there were only 3 students in the class, I realize the commitment and true concern you must have for the students you have taught over the years.
Daniel P. Snowman, class of 1991
Thank you for being a wonderful mentor, teacher and constant source of encouragement during my years at Gordon. I have fond memories of field trips, impossible quantum problems (and E&M), dinner at your house, and labs in which you let us explore and discover for ourselves (e.g. the fiber-optics experiment). Thank you.
Jacob Borgman, class of 1991
Thanks for those wonderful first years of physics and all our afternoon chats, especially the spontaneous PBS specials on James Clerk Maxwell!
Michael Bajema, class of 1992
Students don't always think teachers take evaluations seriously, but Dr. McNatt sure did. Apparently some students in their evaluations had suggested that Dr. McNatt should use an overhead more often. So the following semester he used it daily. He came in with fully prepared overheads packed with notes. He placed it on the screen, and while we hurriedly tried to copy it all down, he proceeded to add notes to the overhead, speak rapidly AND write vast amounts on the chalkboard! So we had the choice of whether to copy down his overheads, what he said, or what he wrote! I think that at the end of the semester some people encouraged him to go back to his usual methods!
Chad Fleming, class of 1992
Most terrifying experience with Dr. McNatt: I had an 8:00 am Thermal class my sophomore year. Dr. McNatt bribed us to come with hot drinks and sweet rolls. One snowy morning I made it to class on time and fixed a hot chocolate and settled in. Looking around it was just he and I. I thought surely he would cancel class and I could go have a decent breakfast. Or maybe we could review and he could help a struggling student. But he very matter-of-factly said "well lets get started". He faced the board and started in. No one to hide behind, no one to answer his questions (I certainly couldn't!) what was I going to do? This was going to be painful! To my great relief two more walked in just in the nick of time.
Jamie Blowers, class of 1993
So what comes to mind when I think about my experience with Jerry McNatt? The first thing is his example of being all scientist and all Christian at the same time. There was no dichotomy in this, in that God made the universe, and he also made man curious and desiring of Him. This naturally leads one to pursue a deeper understanding of God through a deeper understanding of "the rules," and all that is learned can be understood within a Biblical framework. The example Jerry set in this regard is something I strive to live by each day.
Andy Swensen, class of 1993
I have fond memories of my time in the Gordon College Physics Department with Dr. McNatt as my advisor. I found him to be very supportive and encouraging during this time when I was still trying to discover what I wanted to do after college - even midway through my junior year when I decided to abruptly shift gears and go more in the biology direction. He supported me as I attempted to 'cram' in as many biology courses as I could to pick up a minor. I owe Dr. McNatt and the Gordon Physics Department a great deal of gratitude as they provided the training and guidance necessary for me to succeed in graduate school and beyond. Thank you Dr. McNatt!
Anan Copty, class of 1994
In the classroom, there was never a dull moment. The material taught was always backed up with examples from your numerous experiences. You taught your courses in a very dynamic way, always creating interest even in the most technically difficult presentations. These are the attributes of an exceptional physics professor. If I may add, the donuts that you occasionally brought to our morning classes were also inspirational.
Shelley (Pitman) Suzuki, class of 1995
Physics prepared me to be a problem solver--to look at any 'impossible' task and break it down into smaller tasks that were possible. That has been very helpful, both for working with a large software system and for working with a customer whose cultural frame of reference is very different from ours. In general, Gordon prepared me to be able to listen to people of very different backgrounds, with very different opinions, and seek to find areas of similarity where communication would be possible. That has been helpful both for my work in Japan and in the U.S.
Stephen M. Hall, class of 1995
It's safe to say that not one day has gone by where my physics knowledge gained at Gordon has not been applied in my life. Your lectures and enthusiasm for the subject were a large part of my maintaining physics proficiency over the years. You have a way of using anecdotes that apply the physics principle to real world examples and problems. I really appreciated the hospitality that you and your wife showed to students when you invited us over to your home for those physics social dinners. This was a nice relief for those of us who were quite some distance from home and longing for a home cooked meal and Christian fellowship.
Eric Conner, class of 1997
Dr. McNatt, you made learning physics what it should be intriguing, interesting and educational. It was for that exact reason I got interested in Physics in high school and because of you my college experience was filled with much more of the same! Thanks for your mentorship and dedication. It made all the difference.
Deborah (Tamilio) Apgar, class of 1998
I always remember my college years full of fond memories. Being a physics major was a great and enjoyable challenge. Along with the solid education you provided, I remember your frequent mentioning of how important it is to work diligently, to ask questions and to admit to not knowing something. Thank you for not only teaching educational concepts, but for also teaching concepts that create success in life and career.
Ben Whitehouse, class of 1999
Thank you for all your years of service. In my four years, you were always intent on helping me learn and explore physics. I always appreciated your lectures, and have many fond memories of your lab experiments. Your enthusiasm for your work was very apparent, and you were always eager to share with us your experiences and knowledge. I know it has made a marked difference for me as I've worked through graduate school, as I'm sure it has helped all the others both before and after me. It was my great pleasure to be, and call myself, your student.
Nathan Rines, class of 2002
Dr. McNatt has had a profound and positive impact on the lives of many people in my family alone. It's difficult for me to image the number of lives he has impacted positively throughout his career. His contribution to my academic and spiritual development is a gift that I am deeply grateful for and is one that I will never forget.
Danica (Passano) Rines, class of 2004
Thank you…for always being there when I had a question, for encouraging me to excel, for relating everything we learned to real life, and for sharing stories about your life and making me feel like I was another member of your family. I'll never be without the love for learning that I found while I was at Gordon. Thank you for guiding me.
Rebecca Copty, class of 2004
Dr. McNatt always stressed the importance of locking lab doors. I couldn't say just how many times I was told make sure you lock the doors! I recall one incident in which his fervor for locking doors left me in something of an awkward position. I was studying in the beloved electronics lab with the door shut. The door had an interesting special feature of having a keyhole only on the outside, without the provision of a locking/unlocking mechanism on the inside. One can imagine the panic that seized me when I heard an invisible hand trying the door handle and then turning in the lock upon discovering that it was open. By the time I realized what had happened, rushed to the door, tried the handle and started to bang it and call out, my jailer was gone. I took a peak out the window and saw Dr. McNatt exiting the building and strolling away carelessly on the grass. Thankfully, I had my cell phone, but reception was notoriously poor in MacDonald. So, I pressed my face to the window, prayed, dialed and was shortly thereafter rescued. The entire door had to be changed seeing as this problem was something of a fire hazard, but I don't know if Dr. McNatt ever found out. Well, Dr. McNatt, now you know!
Levi Silvers, class of 2004
I recall having a pressing question concerning a homework assignment for Electricity and Magnetism and heading to Jerry's office for some help. He always did a good job of helping and then just kept going… and going… and going… After about a half an hour, I found an interesting mind game to play. It went like this: try to recall the line of reasoning that guided the conversation Jerry just took me through. For example: Electricity and Magnetism led to Maxwell, who led to Scotland, which obviously led to the Orangemen march in Northern Ireland, then Jerry found a link to something with Credit Cards…
Mike Veatch, Ph.D.
I've appreciated your steady injection of realism and experience into our division discussions. There was also something reassuring about seeing you working out equations in the lounge from time to time. I suppose it helped me remember my physics professors, but it also resonated with my sense of how one is to think in these days where people look everything up instead of figuring it out themselves.