Dr. Benjamin Gross celebrated the renovation of Grote Hall and the 125th anniversary of the University by providing a pictorial history presentation at the 23rd Annual Department of Chemistry Awards Banquet. “Chemistry is part of that history,” Gross said. “There is much to celebrate in our heritage and performance.”
Quoting Chancellor Emeritus Frederick Obear at the occasion of the University’s centennial celebration in 1986, Gross told students, “Chemistry opens a window to the universe.”
Gross, a professor of Chemistry at the University from 1964-1998, served as department head from 1964 to 1990. He earned the B. S. in Chemistry with honors from the University of Chattanooga. He received the M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in chemistry from UT Knoxville. He received numerous honors during his career, and maintains an active career in public service.
“The renovation of Grote Hall has created more space, it is a safer building, it is an attractive and more functional environment,” Gross said.
Injecting a bit of humor to his presentation, Gross told students there are 48 steps to the third floor of Grote Hall. He showed a picture of a lab on the third floor. “This is where you hear the plea, ‘I could really use some help’ quite often,” Gross joked.
He spoke of the importance of adding expensive new instruments to the analytic chemistry lab. “At many schools, these instruments are only available to graduate students.”
After virtually winding his way through the building, Gross talked about how the university arrived at its current chemistry facility. He explained that the University began with 118 students and 10 faculty members in 1886. Only 10 years earlier, The American Chemistry Society was founded; 17 years earlier the periodic table was developed with 72 chemical elements.
As for chemistry faculty, there was only one member until 1931. At the time of the University’s merger in 1969, there were five chemistry faculty members. Today, the department includes fifteen full time faculty, post docs and lecturers.
In 1910, the University’s medical school closed, due to a funding shortfall. Gross explained “all that remains of the medical school is the cornerstone of the building, located in the student park in the rear of Brock Hall.”
He said chemistry majors’ home base began in the medical building, then moved to Brock Hall, and finally to Grote Hall. An endowment from Dr. Irvine Grote has served the chemistry department well, Gross said. Grote served as a chemistry faculty member from 1941-1961 and held successful patents, including one for Rolaids. He and his wife, Nita, left their entire estate to the UTC Department of Chemistry, an endowment used to fund scholarships, instrumentation, faculty development, research and two endowed professorships.
To view photos of chemistry scholarship awardees, please visit the department of chemistry online at http://www.utc.edu/Academic/Chemistry/