Upon retiring, I suppose it is natural to reflect upon your career. In my case, my career spanned 46 years of teaching at SFA. In 1971, I was at Fort Hood preparing for discharge from the Army, having served my required two years. I had a master’s degree in chemistry and wanted to work in industry (for a big salary), but after 45 rejection letters, I finally got the idea that industry wasn’t hiring just then.
In desperation, I finally began looking for a teaching position and found an opening for a lab coordinator at SFA. I applied and was granted an interview. I got a map and finally located Nacogdoches. A T-shirt for sale in the SFA bookstore at the time asked the same question I had asked: “Where the hell is Nacogdoches?"
I got the position and came to SFA with the idea of staying a couple of years and then moving into industry. My $8,000 annual salary was much less than I envisioned.
Both SFA and Nacogdoches were very different back then. SFA had more trees and fewer buildings. Nacogdoches had more beautiful homes and fewer fast food restaurants and apartments. Those were interesting times. SFA was trying to find its identity (in some respects, I feel that is still going on). We had an outbreak of streaking (I was a gawker, not a streaker), and I discovered that I really liked teaching, SFA and Nacogdoches.
As SFA and Nacogdoches grew, so did I. With encouragement from my wife, Robin, and Dr. Glen Clayton, former dean of sciences and mathematics, I began my doctoral work at Texas A&M University. I continued teaching, took classes and worked at Memorial Hospital on the weekends. I received my doctoral degree in 1991 and began developing science classes and doing workshops for K-12 teachers.
I have been fortunate that just when I began to get complacent with my life something happened to challenge me and keep my thinking fresh. I became interim chair of the chemistry department for a year; I lucked into writing “Chemistry for Dummies,” which led to more books; I was appointed director of the Teaching Excellence Center doing faculty development; I was interim chair of the biology department for two and a half years; and I have enjoyed working with the STEM Center. And yes, I continued teaching.
SFA, Nacogdoches and I have changed a lot during the past 46 years, but one thing that has remained constant is the people. I have been so lucky to have had colleagues, department chairs and administrators who have encouraged and challenged me to be more and do more than I could imagine, and in return, I have tried to encourage and challenge my students to be more and do more than they could imagine. I hope SFA, Nacogdoches and I will continue our growth.