June 22, 2021

First-gen student-athlete is UCLA bound

Jordan Gonzalez BA ’21 is this year’s winner of the Rena J. Ratte Award, Lewis & Clark’s highest academic honor. This fall, Gonzalez will begin a five-year PhD program in chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles.

2021 Rena Ratte Awardee (and 2020 Goldwater Scholar) Jordan Gonzalez 2021 Rena Ratte Awardee (and 2020 Goldwater Scholar) Jordan GonzalezEach spring, a graduating student is honored with the Rena J. Ratte Award in recognition of their academic excellence as an undergraduate. This year’s recipient is Jordan Gonzalez BA ’21, the latest addition to his growing collection of accolades.

“Our winner this year embodies leadership and service to the community, while also being, as one faculty member put it, ‘one of the most professional, supportive, collegial, and responsible students I’ve ever worked with,’” Dean of the College Bruce Suttmeier said at the annual Honors Convocation, commending Gonzalez for his leadership and abilities in all spheres of college life, even in the face of adversity.

A first-generation college student, Gonzalez double majored in chemistry and mathematics, balancing a course load of second and third year courses as a first-year student with training for the college’s baseball team. While he had been cut from the roster his first year, his drive and persistence saw him join the team the next fall and graduate as pitcher, “team captain”, and cochair (during his junior year) of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

From the beginning of his academic career, Gonzalez’s accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. After being inducted into the Pamplin Society of Fellows his first year, Gonzalez went on to become a Barry Goldwater Scholar and a Rhodes Finalist, in addition to completing a senior honors thesis as a junior.

“It’s bittersweet,” Gonzalez says of his status as a newly minted graduate. “Part of me wishes I could stay at Lewis & Clark forever. One of the incredible things that I’ll remember is how much I’ve grown.”

That growth can be attributed to the mentorship he has received as a student, Gonzalez says. Professor of Chemistry Louis Kuo was the first instructor he met at the college, someone he would later go on to conduct peer-reviewed research with, coauthoring an article manuscript for Inorganic Chemistry.

Other mentors included Associate Professor of Chemistry Anne Bentley, Associate Professor of Mathematics Paul T. Allen, and Head Baseball Coach Matt Kosderka, who he credits with his development as both “a student and a person.”

It was at Lewis & Clark, he says, that he discovered his passion for organic chemistry and synthesis of natural products, which he will continue in his education this fall in UCLA’s five-year PhD program in chemistry.

“I’m excited about everything I’m going to learn,” Gonzalez says. “I’ve been doing chemistry for at least seven years and I feel like there’s so much I still don’t know. I’m excited to be surrounded by professionals in the field and to learn as much as I can in state-of-the-art facilities.”

He will arrive at UCLA’s campus early in August to work with Distinguished Professor Neil K. Garg’s Research Group, where he will conduct research in the development of synthetic strategies and methods that enable the synthesis of complex bioactive molecules. In the future, he hopes to work in drug design and pharmaceutical research.

Rena J. Ratte was a Lewis & Clark philosophy instructor and professor during the 1960s. Following her unexpected death in 1970, colleagues, students, and friends established the award to honor Ratte’s memory. Earning the award was an incredible surprise, Gonzalez says, and a satisfying way to complete his four years at Lewis & Clark.

“It’s something I’m really proud to bring back to the baseball team and to my family,” he says. “It’s really exciting.”

Academic Honors


Mathematical Sciences