Annual Chemistry Tradition Honors Professor and Student
Lebanon Valley College alumni are actively involved in giving back to their alma mater in a variety of ways. For example, several chemistry alumni collaborated on a very creative away to honor a beloved professor, while simultaneously rewarding a current gifted major for their hard work and dedication to chemistry and overall academics.
The Don Dahlberg Award was created by four chemistry alumni who graduated in 1987: Dr. Mary Beth Seasholtz, Dr. Anthony Kapolka, Dr. Laura Pence, and Dr. Timothy Stoner. Each former student had a close relationship with Dr. Dahlberg, professor emeritus of chemistry and current science internship director.
“We had been discussing some ways of giving back to the Chemistry Department, which had been such a strong support system during our four years of college, and we liked the idea of giving an award,” said Dr. Pence, who earned her doctorate at Michigan State University and conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today, she is a professor of chemistry at the University of Hartford.
Instead of a monetary gift or certificate, the alumni decided to reward the honoree with a pocket watch, which they felt was a great way to thank Dr. Dahlberg.
“Dr. Dahlberg represented an interesting contradiction in how he dressed,” Dr. Pence said. “He always wore jeans, but he told time via a pocket watch attached to his belt loop with a gold chain. We decided that it would be great to give a pocket watch to a graduating senior chemist in recognition of everything that we have been given as students and to honor our faculty.”
Dr. Mary Beth Seasholtz, a chemometrician/technology director at Dow Chemical Company after earning her doctorate at the University of Washington, remembers her time involved in picking out the pocket watches that would be awarded to the deserving students.
“Early on, we took turns picking out the pocket watch,” Dr. Seasholtz said. “But then I thought, ‘this is ridiculous!’ What do we know about picking out pocket watches? So, I suggested that Dr. Dahlberg pick it out, and he agreed.”
“It became really fun when he started tinkering with refurbishing old pocket watches,” Dr. Pence said. “He would look out for a watch, the four of us would split the cost, and then he would refurbish the watch and tell us about it and the student who won the award.”
Recent honorees of the award include Tim Carroll ’15, Clarissa Shoffler ’16, and Jasmine Olvany ’17, the latter of whom is serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Budapest, Hungary.
Although the alumni no longer collaborate on the award, they still have fond memories of their time spent at LVC with Dr. Dahlberg.
“He helped me work through the idea of graduate school—was this something I wanted to do? How would I go about applying?” Dr. Seasholtz said. “We were then fortunate to be partnered up again, when he took a sabbatical at the University of Washington while I was a graduate student there.”
Dr. Pence also remembers how Dr. Dahlberg was there to lend a helping hand through her graduate school experience.
“When I was applying for graduate schools, I was frequently in Dr. Dahlberg’s office for advice and to borrow his phone,” Pence said. “Yes, that was when cell phones didn’t exist and you had to pay per minute for long distance phone calls.”
The connection between staff and students goes a long way at Lebanon Valley College, even after students have graduated and professors have retired.
Photo Caption: Dr. Dahlberg catches up with Fei Liu '00, a previous recipient of the Dahlberg Award, during the summer of 2017.
-- Veronica Pettyjohn '18, Marketing & Communications Intern