Former F&M professor wins chemistry education award

By Catherine Brown ’14
Staff Writer

Former F&M chemistry professor Dr. Conrad Stanitski was recently selected to receive the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education. This prestigious award, given by the American Chemical Society (ACS), is awarded to one individual each year, chosen from across the country.

According to the award’s website, “A nominee must have made outstanding contributions to chemical education considered in its broadest meaning, including the training of professional chemists; the dissemination of reliable information about chemistry to prospective chemists, members of the profession, students in other fields, and the general public; and the integration of chemistry into our educational system.”

Stanitski, who began his career by teaching high school chemistry more than 50 years ago, has certainly embodied these characteristics. He has taught in numerous higher education institutions and first came to F&M in 1984, when he had an administrative fellowship from the American Council on Education. In 2005, he became a visiting professor of chemistry at F&M after retiring from the University of Central Arkansas. Although he retired from teaching at F&M in June, he remains very active both on campus and in the Lancaster community as a member of the F&M Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Lancaster Symphony Chorus.

Stanitski has also written more than 25 textbooks and numerous journal publications.

These books have a wide variety of audiences, including high school students, chemistry majors, non-science majors, and allied health students.

Stanitski’s friend and colleague, Truman Schwartz, nominated him for the award. The pair has done a lot of work for the ACS, including co-authoring a textbook that is now in its seventh edition.

“Dr. Stanitski has made substantial contributions to all the areas of chemical education identified in the award’s description: teaching, organization and administration, influential writing, instructional methodology, standards of instruction, educational research and public enlightenment,” Schwartz said. “He is eminently qualified for this
recognition.”

The award is named for George C. Pimentel, an internationally known chemist who invented the chemical laser and who taught at the University of California, Berkeley. Pimentel died in 1989 and is survived by his wife, Jeanne.

Although receiving the award is a great honor for any chemist, Stanitski feels an especially deep, personal connection with the award because he greatly admired Pimentel and even met him. He also taught a workshop class in Pimentel Hall at UC Berkeley, which was a very inspiring experience for him.

“This award has a deep emotional tie for me because when I was a high school teacher, George C. Pimentel, despite all his credentials, took time in the late fifties and early sixties to oversee a new high school curriculum. I taught this curriculum shortly after it came out. He was a far-off, iconic mentor to me,” Stanitski said.

Stanitski heavily appreciates Pimentel’s attitude toward teaching. “Here he is, an internationally known, famous chemist who could have had his pick at teaching any doctoral classes, and instead, he steadfastly taught general chemistry courses at Berkley because he felt it required a good job right at that base level.”

Stanitski will officially receive the award in April at the national ACS meeting in New Orleans, where he will deliver a 30-40 minute speech.

“I’m honored and humbled by the award, especially when I think about who the previous recipients have been,” Stanitski said.

Past recipients have included Schwartz; John W. Moore, with whom Stanitski has published some books; and James Spencer, F&M’s William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Emeritus Professor of Chemistry.

Stanitski added, “I think this award also to me means that I’ve had the extremely good fortune to work with some pretty exceptional colleagues throughout my career who have helped me think about what I teach, how I teach, and what I write about.”

Questions? Email Catherine at cbrown2@fandm.edu.

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