This is Your Life Dr. Roy Olofson
More than 50 alumni, colleagues and friends gathered on December 10, 2013 to surprise and celebrate Roy A. Olofson at the Nittany Lion Inn. The luncheon illustrated the influence Dr. Olofson has had through the years on so many: from students at all levels, to colleagues, to many professional organizations.
Receiving his BS and MS in Chemistry from the University in Chicago in 1957, and PhD from Harvard in 1961 (where he had the opportunity to study with Robert Burns Woodward, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry), he became an instructor, then Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Harvard. In 1965 he arrived at Penn State to begin his career as an Associate Professor, becoming a Professor in 1972, leading to his current role as Professor Emeritus which began in in 1996. Throughout these decades he provided organic chemistry lectures that inspired thousands of Penn State undergraduates. Today, he continues to assist with review sessions and the preparation and grading of organic chemistry exams.
Alumni traveled from all over the country to celebrate and share their memories in person. Many of his PhD students shared memories and events on how Dr. Olofson influenced their lives. Even more sent emails such as this one, “I was a student in your first semester sophomore organic chemistry course way back in 1986 …and I loved it. It just clicked. You made it come alive and I just loved to go to class…Those two courses, and you as the professor, had a significant impact on my career and life. I want to thank you for being such a great teacher and positive influence on me and my classmates.”
Dr. Olofson’s deep and abiding love of the history of chemistry brings the subject to life by relating rich stories about the lives and personalities of key figures in the field whose work built the foundation of our present knowledge. As he often said in Chem 34 organic chemistry lectures, “To know where we’re going, you have to know how we got here.”
Throughout his career, along with guiding the organic chemistry research of dozens of undergraduate and graduate students, he published over 100 articles and monographs. He also patented a number of chemical processes. Dr. Olofson initiated, promoted and organized celebrations, marker installations and /or displays of historical significance for many professional chemical organizations.
This luncheon, organized by his colleagues and alumni, provided a wonderful opportunity to honor and share with Dr. Olofson how his critiques, lessons, mentoring and leadership reached so many lives on campus and far beyond.