Physics is a Family Tradition for Two Dan Black Scholars

October 17, 2006

By Debra Cano Ramos

Cal State Fullerton senior Kelly Kuper is no stranger to physics. She’s from a family of physicists: Her father majored in physics at CSUF and graduated in 1978, while her younger brother, Brian, is a third-year physics student here. Another sibling is considering following in the family footsteps.

Kuper is quick to say that her father, Tom, who holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in optics from the University of Arizona, sparked her interest. 

“Growing up, I would go to my dad’s work and hear about his projects. He would also take my family to visit with his professors – both at CSUF and the University of Arizona – during the summers when we were on vacation,” said Kuper, adding that her father works at Optical Research Associates in Pasadena.

“When it really comes down to it, I chose physics because I wanted to study something that would be challenging and extremely relevant to the technical industry from a scientific standpoint.”

Kelly Kuper
Kelly Kuper, a senior in the Dan Black Program in Physics and Business, displays notes about a process she is working on. Her work was on display during a Sept. 15 open house of several of the labs in the newly renamed Dan Black Hall.

Kuper, along with her brother, are among the nine students in the Dan Black Program in Physics and Business – believed to be the first such program at the undergraduate level.

“It’s really a family affair,” said Roger Nanes, professor of physics and program director. 
Kelly Kuper and Family
Kelly and Brian Kuper, both CSUF students in the Dan Black Program in Physics and Business, pose with their father, Tom, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Cal State Fullerton. Kelly says her dad sparked her interest in majoring in physics by taking her to his work at Optical Research Associates in Pasadena. He also would take his children to visit his former alma mater.

The program is designed for physics majors who want to apply their technical knowledge to launch a business or join the management team of a technology-related company, Nanes said. Students take courses in finance, management, marketing and advanced business communication, as well as participate in two summer internships to gain experience working in the corporate world.
Kuper plans to graduate in January and has already landed her first job. The Dan Black Program also has inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in business, with an emphasis in finance, at Cal State Fullerton. By being in the program, it has not only afforded Kuper the unique combination of physics and business, but also instilled a strong dedication toward solving quantitative and qualitative problems, she said.

“My passion for business has blossomed over the past few years as a direct result of my involvement in the program,” said Kuper, who works full-time at an Irvine medical equipment company where she completed three summer internships. “It was definitely a successful internship and getting the job was a direct result of the program. I really like the people I work with – and the job.”

Brian Kuper is working part-time working at an Anaheim company where he completed two summer internships. The company manufactures materials for aerospace and other extreme-demand environments.

Launched in 2000, the program’s first student completed his bachelor’s of science degree last spring. Kuper will be the program’s second graduate.

The program’s namesake enrolled at Cal State Fullerton just out of the Air Force and majored in physics. Married, Black worked full-time while taking a full load of college courses and graduated in 1967. He went on to become a successful businessman. Black would later say that his college experience “changed my life in a major way.” Because Black wanted physics students to have the opportunity he never had – to be able to focus on their studies and prepare for their careers – he is the brainchild of the physics and business program. He underwrites the program and supports two scholarship programs, one for all physics majors and one exclusively for those in the physics and business program.

The scholarship programs have helped junior and senior physics students to focus on their advanced coursework, easing the burden of having to work while attending college, Nanes said. “It helps them to make ends meet,” he said.
Kuper and her brother, Brian, are both Dan Black scholarship recipients and at the dedication luncheon, she thanked Black for his support: “Through the scholarship program that bears his name, Dan’s generous donations and support have afforded myself, and many other students, a wonderful opportunity to pursue our goals and make our academic dreams a reality.
“Through his financial support he has enabled them to take action and begin paving the road to their success. He has worked hard to instill a spirit of commitment and service to the university,” she said. “As a student in the Dan Black program, I feel compelled to follow his example. I realize, now more than ever, the importance of giving back to the community to help preserve its forward momentum and ensure its success for the next set of incoming students.”

The entrepreneur has donated $4.2 million – in cash and pledges – to the university, the largest gift ever to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In recognition of his financial gift, at a Sept. 15 dedication ceremony, the Science Laboratory Center was renamed Dan Black Hall – the first time an existing Cal State Fullerton building has been named for an alumnus.


Kelly Kuper
Kelly Kuper