Autobiographical Sketch


To make this as brief as possible, I will summarize here and provide links to more lengthy essays on various aspects of my life for those who are drawn to such details.

While our family history is somewhat incomplete, I have outlined what I know of it in a rather lengthy essay that covers my parents and their families, as well as the births of my sisters and brother. I was born and raised, through childhood, in San Gabriel and Alhambra, suburbs of Los Angeles, California. My childhood was uncomplicated in most ways, but did include the memorable experience of World War II.

When I completed the eighth grade at Granada Elementary School in Alhambra in 1948, the family moved to Tempe, Arizona, which is where I went to high school, college and, during my sophomore year in college, married my high school sweetheart Shirley Louise Cushing on March 4, 1954. In the next two years, our daughters Robin Marie and Leslie Ann were born. After graduating with a BS in Chemistry and an ROTC commission from Arizona State College (now University), in June, 1956 I joined Shell Chemical as a chemist at their synthetic rubber plant in Torrance, California. In August, 1957 I was called to active duty in the Army, and after two years as a Signal Corps officer in New Jersey, Arizona and California, I returned to Shell at Torrance. We bought our first home in Hawthorn, California, and soon our third daughter Sherri Lynn was born.

The first ten years of my 36.5 year career with Shell were all at Torrance, but in 1966 I was transferred to New York City, and the family moved with me to live in Darien, Connecticut. While living in Connecticut my dormant interest in astronomy was reawakened and has remained an important part of my life since that time. From Connecticut, we moved to Houston, Texas, when Shell moved its corporate headquarters in 1970. We were barely settled in Houston when, on Valentines Day, 1972, I was asked to take over as Plant Manager for the Shell Chemical Woodbury Plant. The family remained in Houston until June, when we moved again to live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The years in Cherry Hill were troubled by problems in the family and at the plant, but in 1975, I was again promoted to a new job in Houston. The remainder of my career in Shell was spent as a headquarters department manager in various capacities.

Robin and Leslie both married during the period shortly after we returned to Houston from New Jersey. Shirley completed her B.A. in Nursing and went to work as a nurse for Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Our marriage had been shaky since Connecticut, and it finally collapsed in 1982. We were divorced in August, 1983. Sherri continued to live with her mother, moving with her to Dallas to be near Robin, and then on to Mesa, Arizona to live near Shirley's mother. The links to each of my three daughters will give more details about their education, marriages, and our grandchildren.

Good fortune was to be mine, in spite of these troubled times, when Anna Fay Friedlander, newly arrived in Houston as a Staff Economist for the Keplinger and Associates petroleum consulting firm, wandered in to the Houston Astronomical Society meeting in February, 1983. I finally got her to answer a telephone message, we dated, and on November 3, 1984 were married. My life since then has been radically improved in many ways, and I have been much happier than in the years prior to meeting Anna Fay. I have enjoyed not only my life with Anna Fay, but also with her sons Mark, and Paul and his wife Danelle, as well as with my own daughters and grandchildren.

Following retirement in December, 1992, I returned to school at Rice University, where I am now attempting to write a dissertation to complete a Ph.D. in History. After that, I plan to enjoy more time with the family, travel and do some writing on the history of astronomy. There is more than enough detail in links shown above to satisfy most normal curiosity if you are so inclined. Enjoy!

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Comments or suggestions are welcome: Tom Williams, trw@rice.edu