Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Steven S. Zumdahl Retirement Symposium

A Celebration of 25 Years of Teaching Chemistry at the University of Illinois

Zumdahl model

Over 100 people gathered in 100 Noyes Laboratory on Saturday June 7, 2003 to honor teaching and Dr. Steven Zumdahl on the occasion of his retirement after 29 years of teaching at the University of Illinois. Few chemists anywhere, anytime have had a greater impact on the teaching of our discipline: Professor Zumdahl's textbooks at both the college and high school level have introduced over two million students to the world of chemistry. Here at the University of Illinois, he has directly affected the lives of some 10,000 students through his role as Director of General Chemistry. He is a truly inspiring teacher, one who is dedicated to the art of teaching and amazingly effective in firing an enthusiasm and a passion for chemistry in those who participate in his classes.

Greg Girolami, Head of the Department of Chemistry, began the day by welcoming past and present students, friends, and colleagues, and gave the audience a summary of Dr. Zumdahl's many accomplishments and his importance to the teaching of chemistry both locally and nationally. Steve was next honored by Larry Faulkner, President of the University of Texas and former Head of the Department of Chemistry at UIUC. Dr. Faulkner related how his son had declared "I'm not going to be a chemist, dad!" in high school, but promptly changed his mind after taking Dr. Zumdahl's class in college, going on to a career in chemistry. Gil Haight, Steve's mentor and predecessor as Director of General Chemistry, spoke next. He talked about Steve's early days at the University of Illinois and remarked how proud he was to hand over a program "and watch it get better." Gil also noted that none of his friends could help him figure out what to say at the retirement ceremony for one's successor. Richard Stratton, senior science editor at Houghton-Mifflin and editor of Steves many textbooks, talked of Steve's impact as a writer, and the large impact they have had on chemistry education throughout the world. Mr. Stratton also pointed out that how chemistry related to cars plays a role in Steve's expository style.

Former students and teaching assistants then shared some of their fondest memories about Steve and his courses. Speakers included Lisa Yeh, Dan Hanus, Stephanie (Wengert) Watts, John Kirby, Spencer Pasero, and Tim Loftus, and covered the years between 1978 and 2001. Many spoke of the support and encouragement that Steve gave them, as well as his passion for chemistry. Don DeCoste, a current faculty member in General Chemistry, then described Steve's impact on the Department and his students, explaining that, to Steve, there is no conflict between being an effective teacher and a well-liked teacher.

The afternoon concluded with classic demonstrations with Steve Zumdahl as the impresario, followed by a rousing buffet reception.

The Department announced that bronze plaques will be mounted in 100 Noyes Lab in honor of both Steve Zumdahl and Gil Haight commemorating their many contributions to chemical education at Illinois. In addition, an award is being established in Steve's name to honor sophomore and junior students in the bachelors of the teaching of chemistry program. Donations may be made to the Zumdahl Teaching of Chemistry Award.