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An MJC professor donned a crazy wig to teach chemistry. A national group took note

Modesto Junior College chemistry Professor Steven Murov in his Dr. Al Chemist getup in 1997.
Modesto Junior College chemistry Professor Steven Murov in his Dr. Al Chemist getup in 1997.

The American Chemical Society honored Steven Murov, professor emeritus at Modesto Junior College, for his colorful way of teaching chemistry.

Murov received the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach at the group’s annual meeting in Boston last month.

Murov taught at MJC from 1979 to 2006 and has given scientific presentations to other audiences since 1975. Sometimes, it has been in the guise of Dr. Al Chemist, with a red or white wig and various stage props. He can make a pickle glow as it conducts electricity. He can whip common household chemicals into “elephant toothpaste.”

Murov estimates that more than 30,000 people have seen his shows in Modesto and other locales around the nation.

“I do my best to demystify chemistry,” he said in a news release. “Usually for school groups, I would take the wig off after several minutes and try to debunk the mad scientist stereotype common in movies.”

Murov remains active in the Modesto Area Partners in Science lecture series at MJC, which explores various topics over the academic year.

50 years of legal work

A downtown Modesto law firm honored legal secretary Loretta Rieb for 50 years of service. And she is not ready to retire.

Sept. 15, 1968, was the day that Rieb went to work for Louis “Bud” Gianelli. He was not yet an attorney but was serving as Stanislaus County inheritance tax referee. He started his law firm, now known as Gianelli Nielsen, in 1972. Rieb has worked in business, estate planning, probate, family and real estate law.

She has been active in the Stanislaus County Legal Professionals Association. She was president in 1979-80 and again in 1992-94. She was editor-in-chief of the Publications Revisions Committee of Legal Secretaries Inc., which produces manuals for professionals.

“She enjoys work and says she has no plans for retirement at this time,” said an email from Rachelle Vande Pol, one of nine attorneys at the firm. It also has a Sonora office.

The staff honored Rieb with a luncheon Friday at Galletto Ristorante.

Bullfighting for good causes

Families dealing with childhood cancer and autism will benefit from the $31,103 raised at a bullfight in Stevinson (the “bloodless” kind, as required by state law).

The Carlos Vieira Foundation put on the event with the California Portuguese Bloodless Bullfight Organization and other partners. Vieira founded 51 Fifty, an energy drink made in Livingston.

Half of the proceeds went to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera to help children with cancer. The other half went to grants for families living with autism in 21 counties in Central California.

Valley Children’s also benefited from a fundraiser at Save Mart in July. Customers at 44 stores could ask at checkout to donate $2, $3 or $5. The total came to $14,936, said Victoria Castro, public affairs manager for the Modesto-based grocery chain.

And finally ...

Turlock will dedicate the Roger K. Fall Transit Center, named for a longtime engineer for the city, at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21. The $5.8 million building at 1418 N. Golden State Blvd. allows bus riders to transfer between Turlock Transit and systems for Stanislaus and Merced counties. It also has city transit offices.

Fall died unexpectedly in March at his home in Idaho. He started working for Turlock in 1981 and finished his career as transportation engineering supervisor, overseeing streets and public transit.

The dedication will include remarks by government officials and tours for the public.

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