Irv Levy (2010)

Professor of Chemistry and Computer Science

So often, we are told that Cash shapes our conscience.  Every day, as a citizen of a prosperous country, I walk the line between responsibility and expediency.  My priorities as a consumer often draw me into my own ring of fire, where I simply recycle and indulge those habits that exploit our environment.

In the past decade the green chemistry movement has tried to awaken greater awareness of how we manage chemicals in our work and in our private lives.  Green chemists do not preach environmental care merely as a moral posture but also as wise stewardship.  They have sought to reform American industry and lifestyles from within—to demonstrate that what is good for the environment is quite often good for the economy and for our quality of life.  A few years ago, when many leaders—including several Christians—tended to dismiss the green chemistry movement as a diversion or ideology, a few scientists and educators had the courage to advocate for its principles and its pragmatic reforms.  The recipient of this year’s Senior Distinguished Faculty Award was one of those scientists and educators.  His endeavors have made Gordon a leader in green chemistry education, which has now won wide admiration and respect within both the academy and industry.  Cutting-edge manufacturers and chemists are seeing new capabilities in products and procedures that protect human health and the environment in profitable ways.

Among his notable achievement in the past few years, he has been the co-editor of a book on Green Chemistry Education, published by Oxford University Press.  He enthusiastically engages students in professional societies, and has helped them run education programs on sustainability for high school students at Boston’s Museum of Science.  In March he was elected as the chair of the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Education Division.  In his role as program chair, he will organize the chemical education conferences for the next six national meetings, which usually sponsor between 1,000 and 2,000 presentations or posters.  As chair of our chemistry department, he will strive to insure that our own students do the level of work that qualifies them to be presenters at those sessions.  Always highly rated by students, he is known for making complex materials accessible, relevant and invigorating.  He is a master explainer—patient, lucid, logical, always concerned with the welfare of his listener.

And I have not yet mentioned that he is also a professor of computer science.  Actually, his class on computers and society is one of the primary means by which students are drawn to the computer science major.  For more than two decades he has effectively served students and colleagues in two different departments.  I have always admired him for his good nature, his can-do spirit, and his commitment to leave the world God gave us a cleaner and healthier place for the next generation.

He is also a big baseball fan with high principles, and he recently told me that he would not visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown until the writers voted to admit his childhood hero, Ron Santo of the Cubs.  I can’t predict when the baseball writers will have the good sense to do that, but I know that I am very pleased to announce that we have voted to admit professor of chemistry and computer science Irv Levy into our own Hall of Fame by giving him the 2010 Senior Distinguished Faculty Award.

Irv Levy