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Local South Pole explorer to receive honorary degree

Dec. 8, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A Kalamazoo man whose background includes exploring the South Pole, working with a number of federal agencies and a career as a science educator will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Western Michigan University during fall commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 13.

William S. Hough, a 1948 WMU alumnus, will be honored during the 9 a.m. ceremony in Miller Auditorium, one of three commencement ceremonies planned for that day. The honor was approved by the WMU Board of Trustees in September.

Hough was part of a 1957 expedition and the first group to spend the winter at the South Pole. His team laid the groundwork for succeeding decades of research at the then-primitive U.S. Navy Amundsen-Scott South Pole base station. Hough and his teammates expanded the base to prepare for future expeditions, and Hough's role in the initiative was to observe and record changes to the ionosphere and help construct a 1,000-foot seismometer tunnel by digging through the ice by hand with a shovel and ice pick.

The Hough Glacier was mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey from U.S. Navy air photos taken during 1957-59 and named for Hough by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names in honor of the ionosphere studies he completed in 1957. Hough returned to Antarctica twice after the 1957 expedition, both times in the summer.

A native New Englander, Hough first came to WMU in 1943 as a Navy serviceman enrolled in the V-12 Officer Training program at the University during World War II. Following the war, he studied at WMU under the G.I. Bill and majored in physics.

Hough began his career by working for the U.S. department of Commerce in the National Bureau of Standards. Later, he worked for the U.S. Navel Bureau of Ordinance, where he designed missile flight simulations and built a prototype computer for the program. His background also includes stints as a stockbroker and as a deputy civil defense director in Boulder, Colo., with responsibility for that community's preparations during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition, he has been involved in writing computer programming for nuclear waste cleanup.

Late in his career, Hough spent 15 years in what he calls "the best job he ever had." He was a high school science teacher in Springfield, Mass., teaching physics, oceanography and chemistry and sharing his knowledge of how science is used in the real world. He retired from that position in 1985 and he now lives in Kalamazoo's Friendship Village retirement community.

A lifelong member of the WMU Alumni Association, Hough is an advocate for the University and for higher education in general.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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