Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

A Brief History of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toledo

by Harold G. Oddy
Chairman, Chemistry
1944 - 1964

With the organization of the College of Pharmacy in 1904 and the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and of Law in 1909, the University of Toledo became, in fact, a real university. This expansion paved the way for the establishment of a Department of Chemistry as an integral part of the College of Arts and Sciences. To be sure, some courses in Chemistry were taught from 1904 onward under the direction of the College of Pharmacy and the Medical College to satisfy their own requirements. But the Department of Chemistry had its real beginning as an entity with the appointment of Henry R. Kreider (Ph.D. Johns Hopkins) in early 1915. He directed its course as it grew in stature until his retirement in 1944. Not enough can be said in praise of this kindly and understanding gentleman who managed the affairs of this department wisely and well for 29 years.

First located in the Medical College at Cherry and Page, the departmental facilities were soon moved to a former public school structure on Illinois Street. After a major renovation it had been occupied in 1914 and enlarged a year later. It proved to be entirely inadequate for expanding enrollments.

During Dr. Kreider's early years at the university, he received some instructional assistance from members of the College of Pharmacy. Expansion of the department led to the appointment in 1918 of Guy E. Van Sickle as Associate Professor of Chemistry and in 1922, of Martin A. Yee as instructor, the latter having had the distinction of being the department's first teaching fellow and its first graduate student.

The year 1922 was an important one for the university and for the Chemistry Department since it marked a move to more spacious quarters at Nebraska Avenue and Parkside Boulevard. These were, by comparison, a considerable improvement but still left a great deal to be desired. It was apparent that the university would soon outgrow these facilities. In 1928 the city council approved its request to seek voter approval for a bond issue of $2,850,000 which would be used to erect an entirely new campus on a site to be chosen. A concerted drive by students, alumni and faculty was successful in obtaining passage of the issue, thus bringing a cherished dream to reality.

Before occupancy of the new campus, several staff changes occurred. In 1925, Thomas W. Ray (Ph.D. Chicago) replaced Mr. Yee. In 1928, following his resignation, Harold G. Oddy (Ph.D. Toronto) was appointed as his replacement. A fourth staff member, Nelson W. Hovey, was added in 1930. He had come to the university in 1928 as a teaching fellow. Nicholas Mogendorff (Ph.D. Wisconsin) was hired to teach Natural Science in 1929 and was assigned some work in chemistry as his teaching load permitted.

The department attracted a group of outstanding students in the late 1920's. Of some twenty graduates, over a three-year period, eight later obtained advanced degrees in chemistry or allied disciplines. Raymond Ewell (B.S. 1928, Ph.D. Princeton) is now Vice President for Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Nelson Hovey (M.S. 1930, Ph.D. Michigan) has been a member of the University of Toledo faculty since 1930. Paul Lavin (B.S. 1930,M.S. 1933) is at present Chief Chemist for Champion Spark Plug. Gale Nadeau (B.S. 1927, M.S. 1928, Ph.D. Ohio State) has been in research and development with Eastman Kodak since his graduation. Claude Schmitt (B.S. 1927, Ph.D. OhioState) later took a law degree and was a patent attorney with Eastman Kodak until his death in 1955. Elmer Sperry (B.S. 1930, M.S. Ohio State) has worked for many years for Sun Oil at Marcus Hook. Herbert Strong (B.S. 1930, Ph.D.Ohio State) joined General Electric as a research physicist in 1947 and is best known for his work on diamond synthesis. Donald Swan (B.S. 1930, Ph.D. OhioState) became research director for a division of Pittsburgh Plate Glass in 1943. Jack Wheaton (B.S. 1930) joined Owens-Illinois immediately following graduation and is now manager of closure-glass development in their Glass Container Division.

Following passage of the bond issue in the fall of 1928, departmental morale was high and all looked forward impatiently to the time when the new facilities would be ready. The move to the West Bancroft Street campus was made between semesters in January, 1931. University Hall provided adequate offices, laboratories, stockrooms and classrooms until the postwar student influx of 1946, enabling the department to continue its steady growth.

An additional instructor, Ralph Signer, was appointed in 1933 and a full-time stock custodian, Wayland C. Byers, was also hired. In 1936 Walter V. Burg (Dipl. Ing., Berlin) was appointed to an instructorship under a grant made to the university by the Committee on Displaced German Scholars. The following year he received a permanent appointment with the rank of Associate Professor of Chemistry replacing Mr. Signer. Professor Burg proved to be a versatile and progressive member of the faculty. He had soon instituted a course in Chemical Technology and had taken over the course in Metallurgy, modernizing it and adding laboratory work. In the latter war years, he became Head of the Physics Department and in 1946 he was asked to develop a program in Chemical Engineering.

Thus, between 1936 and 1944, a nucleus of five, namely Burg, Hovey, Kreider, Oddy and Van Sickle, carried on the affairs of the Chemistry Department, with assistance as the need arose from teaching fellows, part-time lecturers and undergraduate assistants. By present standards, teaching loads were heavy, averaging 19-22 clock hours weekly, and laboratory sections were large, numbering in some instances fifty or more. Nevertheless the department continued an active graduate program and awarded a considerable number of Master of Science degrees. An Honors program also was instituted in 1939 for students in General Chemistry, largely through the efforts of Professor Hovey.

During the years 1930 to 1944, the department graduated a considerable number of excellent students, many of whom continued their studies both at Toledo and elsewhere. It seems appropriate to give a brief resume here of the careers of some of these. Aleck Borman (B.S. 1941, Ph.D. Illinois) has had a most successful career with E.R. Squibb and Sons in research in endocrinology. Raymond Bournique (B.S. 1935, Ph.D. Ohio State) has pursued an academic career and is now Professor and Chairman of the Chemistry Department at Marquette University. Sol Boyk (B.S. 1935, Ph.D. Purdue) was a faculty member at Purdue until 1948 when he returned to Toledo and became President and Research Director of the Ottawa Chemical Company. The company has prospered under his guidance.

Willard Bright (B.S. 1936, M.S. 1938, Ph.D. Harvard) joined the research staff of Lever Brothers in 1952. He became their Director of Research and Development in 1954 and a Vice-president in 1960. He became a Vice-president and Director of Laboratories with the Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, in 1964. Edgar Byron (B.S. 1932, M.S. 1933, B. Eng. 1936, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, Pittsburgh) has, since 1956, been an Engineering Supervisor with Westinghouse. Albert Dietz (B.S. 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Purdue) was for many years a research biochemist with the Toledo Hospital Institute of Medical Research. Since 1960 he has held a similar position witht he Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois. Maurice Ernsberger (B.S. 1933, Ph.D. Ohio State) joined the DuPont organization after graduation and is at present Director of Research in their Organic Chemicals Department. John Johnson (B.S. 1940, Ph.D. Ohio State) is a research chemist with Monsanto.

Henry Kreider, Jr. (B.S. 1933, Ph.D. Ohio State) has been an executive with several pharmaceutical companies and is at present Director of Research for the Sherman Laboratories in Detroit. Joseph Nachman (B.S.,1940, Ph.D. Ohio State) joined the Naval Ordnance Laboratory as a metallurgist in 1948. In 1956 he transferred to the Alloy Development Section of the Denver Research Institute and is now with International Harvester in San Diego. Edward Staab (B.S. 1937) held a Teaching Fellowship in the department until 1939. He had been in the Marine Corps Reserve and was offered a lieutenant's commission with the Corps that year. He accepted this appointment and served with distinction until his retirement a few years ago as a Brigadier General. Sidney Steele (B.S. 1939, Ph.D. Ohio State) has been at Eastern Illinois University since 1947. He is now Chairman of the Chemistry Department there. Alfred Susie (M.S. 1937, Ph.D.Purdue) has, since 1957, been a Vice President with the United Rubber and Chemical Company and Manager of Polymer Research and Development with the United Carbon Company. Michael Sveda (B.S. 1934, Ph.D. Illinois) was employedby Dupont in several capacities until 1954. For a time he was a Project Director with the National Science Foundation. He is at present a management consultant. He is best known for his discovery of Sucaryl while a graduate student at Illinois. Betty (Rapp) Tarr (B.S. 1935, M.S. 1937, Ph.D. Illinois) worked in the patent department of the Phillips Petroleum Company for several years. In 1955 she became Research Librarian for the Technicolor Corporation and since 1965 has been a research chemist with the Bell and Howell Research Laboratory in Pasadena.

World War II had taken almost its full toll of college students by 1944 and the department reached its lowest ebb in some years. Professor Kreider retired, Professor Hovey took a two-year leave of absence and Professor Burgwas occupied with the affairs of the Physics Department. Professor Oddy was made department head and with Professor Van Sickle began laying the ground workfor the post-war rush of students that began in February, 1946. That semester some 360 new students enrolled in General Chemistry and in the fall semester total enrollment exceeded 1500 with nearly 1100 of these being freshmen. The problems of teaching personnel and of space became acute.

Donald K. Brundage, Alfred F. Foster and Frederick Schimmel (replaced in 1947 by Joseph Hicks) were added to the senior staff. Instructorships were given to Jean Balmat, Arthur Black, Catherine Ceboll, Vance Dodson, John Griffin, Albertine Krohn, Carl Meyer and Virgil Tadsen. These young people gave excellent service and with one exception later earned advanced degrees.

During 1946-47 laboratory space for freshmen was a considerable problem and it was obvious that, as they became upper classmen, more space would be essential. At this time, the Federal Government was empowered to construct additional facilities for the training of veterans. The university secured three temporary buildings for this purpose, one of which provided two large laboratories, a demonstration and projection room, two laboratory offices andthe necessary service rooms. These new quarters, though temporary, were well designed for their purpose and proved indispensable. They were occupied in the fall of 1947 and remained in service until 1960.

Enrollments had, by 1952, returned to normal and the department entered a period of steady growth which has continued to the present. The aforementioned junior staff members were uniformly successful in establishing themselves in the professional world. Three of them, Black, Dodson and Krohn, became permanent members of the department following further graduate study. Arthur Black (B.S. 1941, M.S. 1948) received the Master of Science in Chemistry from Michigan and is now an Associate Professor and Dean of Men. Vance Dodson (B.Eng. 1944, M.S. 1947) took a two-year leave of absence and completed his Ph.D. at Purdue. He resigned in 1957 to pursue an industrial career. At the present time he is Director of Research in the Construction Materials section of the Dewey-Almy Chemical Corporation in Cambridge. Albertine Krohn (B.S. 1946, M.S.1949) was given a year's leave and completed her Ph.D. at Michigan.

Others of the junior staff did equally well. Jean Balmat (M.S. 1949) received his doctorate from Rutgers and is senior research chemist with DuPont. John Griffin (B. Eng. 1945, M.S. 1953) obtained his Ph.D. from Michigan and is engaged in electrochemical research at General Motors. Carl Meyer (B.S. Ed.1941, M.S. 1945) at present is Manager of Research and Advanced Development with the Delco Radio Division of General Motors. He is an authority on semiconductors. Virgil Tadsen (B.S. 1941) is now Research and Quality Control Manager for the Gibsonburg Lime Products Division of Chas. Pfizer Company.

The death of Professor Guy Van Sickle at age 61, in December, 1948, came as agreat shock to the staff. He was a kind and friendly colleague and a dedicated teacher. In his thirty years on the Faculty, he made many worthy contributions to the development of the department and the university.

Approval of the curriculum for chemistry majors by the American Chemical Society had long been a departmental goal. Approval had been requested but denied in 1940. With the wholehearted approval of President Asa Knowles the department decided to request a revisitation and reappraisal of its curriculumin 1953. The staff was indeed gratified when the Society granted their approval in October of that year.

Several alumni had expressed the wish that the department might, in some fitting way, honor Dr. Kreider. The establishment of a scholarship fund in his name seemed a very practical manner in which to pay him tribute. Early in 1955, at a meeting of faculty and alumni, reaction was enthusiastic and a committee was formed, with Dr. Oddy as chairman, to get the project under way. President Knowles consented to the fund drive and gave his assistance wherever possible. The first approach for funds was sent out in May and the immediate response was most gratifying. A goal of $10,000 had been set and within two years, over $8,300 had been subscribed or pledged. In 1961, following Dr.Kreider's death, the fund became the Kreider Memorial Scholarship Fund. The department administered the fund until October, 1965 when all assets (over $9,000) were transferred to the Alumni Foundation so that members of the TowerClub and other donors to the foundation could earmark contributions for the Kreider fund. It has since increased to approximately $13,000. The original scholarships were in the sum of $150 a year but later were increased to $250 and their number increased from two to three.

A most important milestone for the university and all of its departments was passed when, at the primary election in October 1959, the voters of Toledo approved an amendment to the city charter granting the University of Toledo a 2-mill property tax levy which assured it a fixed annual income and removed it once and for all from the political arena.

In 1957 President Knowles secured private donations and public funds for construction of the present Engineering Science Building. He insisted that sufficient space in this building be allotted to chemistry to permit the abandonment of the temporary quarters in Chemistry Hall and to insure more adequate room for expansion. Though the staff deplored its continued existence in two rather widely separated areas, it did deeply appreciate the excellent facilities the new building provided. These were occupied in September, 1960.

Revisions in the minimum standards which the American Chemical Society used to evaluate undergraduate education in chemistry were announced in 1962. Major changes were the requirement of a year's training in calculus at the freshman level, training in physics at the sophomore level and in physical chemistry at the junior level. Senior courses could then have a physical chemical basis. These new requirements were instituted in the fall of 1964.

By 1963 the laboratories in University Hall, particularly for undergraduate organic and analytical courses were not only nearing their capacity but needed major renovation. In addition, research facilities for the increasing demands of the graduate program were almost nonexistent. Meanwhile, passage of a state bond issue for capital expenditures for education specifically earmarked $6,000,000 for the University of Toledo. In view of plans for granting the Ph.D. degree in biology and chemistry at an early date, first priority was assigned to the construction of a new structure to house these departments, and on May 1, 1965, Governor Rhodes and President Carlson broke ground for this building. In keeping with its function, in this ceremony the traditional spade was replaced by the electrical detonation of an explosive charge prepared by Professor Black. Completed in September, 1967, this structure now houses the departments of biology and chemistry in separate wings connected by an area containing lecture halls, classrooms and reading room. With its three stories and basement, it became the second largest academic building on the campus.

The administration of the department which had been under the direction of Harold G. Oddy since 1944, passed into the hands of Nelson W. Hovey in 1965. Ayear later Jack G. Kay (Ph.D. Kansas) was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Chemistry Department with the express purpose of initiating a graduate program leading to the doctoral degree. He prepared a proposed curriculum which was submitted, in October 1966, to the Ohio Board of Regents. In September, 1967 they approved granting a Ph.D. degree pending its accreditation by the North Central Association. President Carlson received notification from the Association, in April 1968, that the Ph.D. in chemistry was granted preliminary accreditation. This represented the final step in adding a doctorate to the chemistry curriculum and it will officially begin in September, 1968.

The greatest single step in the university's progress occurred in 1965 when the General Assembly of the State of Ohio enacted legislation by which the University of Toledo became a state university, subject to the approval of the council and electorate of the City of Toledo. This approval came within the year and on July 1, 1967, a new state university came into being. It appears unlikely that, without this new status doctoral programs in chemistry and other disciplines could have been achieved.

In the postwar years, many promising students began or continued their education in chemistry at the University of Toledo. Limitations of space permits mention of but a few of these: Milton Adams (B. Eng. 1948,.M.S. 1949,Ph.D, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Theodore Brown (B.S. Ch.E. 1957, M.S. 1960, Ph.D. Iowa State), Hayman Duecker (M.S. 1956, Ph.D. Maryland), Raymond Haynes (B. Ed. 1957, M.S. 1959, Ph.D. Illinois), Norman Krohn (B.S. 1951, Ph.D. Tennessee), Robert Martin (B.S. 1948, M.S. 1950, Ph,D. Purdue), William McGee (B.S. 1961, M.S. 1963, Ph.D. Florida), Richard Pacer (B.S. 1960, M.S. 1962, Ph.D. Michigan), Verne Simon (B.S. 1953, Ph.D. Florida State), Warren Wise (B.S. 1951, Ph.D. Purdue), David Zaye (B.S. 1962, M.S. 1964, Ph.D. Hawaii).

April, 1968

Last Updated: 6/9/16