The Stuff of Legends

By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70

Collectively, they were members of the Rollins College community for more than 125 years, teaching and coaching an estimated 10,000 students. At the conclusion of the 2010-11 academic year, Rollins honored three retiring faculty members for their incalculable contributions to the College and the success of generations of Rollins alumni. In recognition of those contributions, the Board of Trustees of the College elevated each to emeritus status.

Erich Blossey
Balancing the Teaching–Learning Equation

Erich Blossey

For Erich Blossey, the key element of the teaching-and-learning compound is research. It’s what motivates him, and he’s imparted that enthusiasm to his students for 46 years.

Listen to Erich Blossey's recollections of Rollins.
Listen to Erich Blossey's recollections of Rollins.

Early in his career, Blossey tackled the problem of how to connect the dry theory of the classroom to the reality of the laboratory, first identifying an area of research undergraduate chemistry students could explore successfully, and then involving them as equal partners in the research endeavor. Meanwhile, he registered two patents, 30+ publications, eight books, and nearly 40 professional presentations—some shared with Rollins students—of his own.

In the summer of 1994, Blossey and his colleague Pedro Bernal, associate professor of chemistry, pioneered summer student-faculty collaborative scholarship projects for rising sophomores. The program, which has grown to embrace scholarship in every discipline, is now a flagship for the College and a magnet for prospective students, who recognize that few have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty, present at professional conferences, and publish in peer-reviewed journals before they begin graduate school.

Blossey’s fascination with chemistry began with the childhood discovery of a chemistry set. His formal education in chemistry includes a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, master’s degree from Iowa State University, and Ph.D. from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University). He earned postdoctoral fellowships from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Syntex, S.A., which took him to Stanford University and Mexico City, respectively. In 1965, he joined Rollins’ faculty, after spending a year at Wabash College as a Kettering Foundation-Great Lakes Colleges Association Teaching Intern.

Although his research carries intimidating titles (“Preparation and Catalytic Properties of Immobilized Chiral Dirhodium (II) Carboxamidates,” “Catalysts with Mixed Ligands on Immobilized Supports, Electronic and Steric Advantages”), Blossey found creative ways to engage less scientifically minded students, offering courses such as Photography: The Science and Art. He was an early adopter of technology in the classroom, including the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI), the Personalized Response System (PRS), and more recently, the use of "clickers" in the classroom.

Blossey was appointed Archibald Granville Bush Professor of Science in 1981 and was the inaugural recipient of the D. J. and J. M. Cram Chair of Chemistry, a gift to the College from Nobel Prize laureate Donald Cram ’41 ’88H and his wife. Other recognitions include appointments as Senior NIH Postdoctoral Fellow (University of New Mexico) and Visiting Scholar (Harvard University). Nonetheless, for Blossey, these professional recognitions pale in comparison to the graduations of his daughter Lisa ’04 and son, Erich Gordon ’07.

Blossey considers himself not so much a teacher as a guide in the learning process. Fortunately, that guidance will continue—reviewing textbooks for Pearson Prentice Hall and McGraw-Hill and refereeing journal articles for the American Chemistry Society. He hopes to focus much of his time on strengthening K-16 education in the U.S., particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). As he noted, “Much to be done since we rank 25th out of 30 ‘developed’ countries!”

STEM couldn’t have a more fervent champion.

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