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History of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
The original department of chemistry was formed at Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1927 offering an undergraduate chemistry degree under the guidance of the department’s first chair, Dr. Carroll E. Key with Mr. Herschel Hopson as faculty member. The department originated from the Science and Mathematics Department composed of Dr. Key, Dr. C. Spurgeon Smith (Biology) and Mr. S. M. Sewell (Mathematics). Dr. Key served as department chair until 1959 at which time it had grown to four total faculty members. Under his guidance the first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the department and the first master’s degree awarded in 1938. A culture of research was established early in the department’s history with many research theses being accomplished upon the chemical constituents of cedar oil. In the next 15 years the department continued to grow in size with the able leadership of Dr. Archie O. Parks (chair 1959-1968) and Dr. Charles R. Willms (chair, 1968-75) and the faculty had grown to 11 members and was cited annually in the local news as the department with the highest percentage of Ph.D. faculty members in the 1970s. In 1971 the department’s Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry was granted certification by the American Chemical Society.
The department has always had a reputation for academic excellences as noted in the following passage from Dr. Ron Brown’s history of the first 75 years of the university, Beacon on the Hill. “Undergraduates occasionally complain about those “tough” courses in physics and chemistry. Certainly the SWT faculty in those disciplines pride themselves upon their rigorous standards.” In the next 30 years the department continued to grow along with university chaired by Dr. Billy J. Yager (1975-88), Dr, Carl J. Carrano (1988-1999) and Dr. James D. Irvin (2000-2007). In those years considerable changes occurred in the university and department. In 2000 the department changed its name to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry which was followed with the establishment of master’s and bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry. Two of the department’s retired faculty members, Dr. John Fitch and Dr. Billy Yager, have received the honor of being named Distinguished Professor Emeritus. In addition six department faculty members have received the Texas State Presidential Award for Research. Dr. Walter Rudzinski served as Interim Chair of the Department from 2007 until the Spring of 2010. The current Chair of the Department is Dr. William Brittain.