Spring 2011

Department mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Jack Kampmeier

We mourn the loss of Professor Emeritus Jack A. Kampmeier who passed away on Saturday, March 26th. Jack was still active here on campus into the month of March after retiring in the spring of 2005.

Throughout his career, Jack dedicated himself to the education of all students; to use his phrase, "from freshmen to postdoc". He inspired faculty here and elsewhere to raise their teaching to new levels of excellence. Jack has been a beloved teacher and a respected colleague at the University of Rochester from 1960.

"Jack Kampmeier embodies the perfect scholar," said Robert K. Boeckman Jr., the Marshall D. Gates Jr. Professor of Chemistry and Chair. At the time of Professor Kampmeier's retirement in 2005, Professor Boeckman described him as "an esteemed colleague, an excellent communicator, a visionary and passionate leader, an untiring advocate for students, and an exemplary citizen of the University community."

Having received his A.B., cum laude at Amherst College in 1957, followed by his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Jack accepted a faculty appointment in Chemistry at the University of Rochester in 1960 to establish a program of teaching and research in organic chemistry with an emphasis on organic reaction mechanisms and free radical chemistry. His research group did seminal work on the structure and stereochemistry of vinyl radicals, and developed a powerful mechanistic tool for elucidating the mechanism of radical substitutions at nonsterogenic atoms. Nearly a decade later, Jack's research group turned their attention to organometallic reaction mechanisms. The Kampmeier group performed the key experiments to understand the decarbonylations of aldehydes and acid chlorides by rhodium(I). Their experiments ultimately led to a complete reinterpretation of the reaction mechanism and new, general insights into organometallic reaction pathways.

In the late 1960s, Jack initiated a complete revamping of the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. This led to new laboratory courses in organic chemistry and physical chemistry that emphasized the use of modern instrumentation and techniques. In addition, Jack invented, developed, and taught a new capstone course (CHM 234) that integrated previous laboratory work and prepared students for independent research. After having returned to the Chemistry Department from the Dean's office in 1991, Jack played a lead role in writing a successful proposal to the Hughes Foundation that lead to the development of new courses in both the Chemistry Department and the Biology Department for students majoring in the biological sciences.

His commitment to undergraduate teaching was first recognized in 1974 when he received the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 1999, he received the University's Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching, as he entered his fortieth year as an instructor. In 1999, he was also the recipient of the Chemical Manufacturers' Association Catalyst Award. Except for two sabbaticals, as NSF Faculty Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (1971-1972) and another as Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg, Germany (1979-1980), Jack was a fixture on the UR campus.

Jack chaired the Chemistry Department from 1975 to 1979 and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1988 to 1991. As Chairman of the Chemistry Department from 1975-79, he successfully identified and recruited outstanding young faculty to the Department, and organized the financing and acquisition of the first high field NMR spectrometer on campus. He encouraged and expanded the postdoctoral program in Chemistry and established the idea of teaching postdoctorals. As Chairman, he was also a member of the leadership committee that established the Rochester Plan. In 1982, Jack accepted a position as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. He encouraged the aggressive recruiting of students in all graduate programs, in part supported by special graduate fellowships. From the period of the early 80's to the late 80's, the number of graduate applicants at Rochester more than doubled, resources allocated to graduate students from the College tripled, and the support from research grants nearly doubled. He also started the drive to establish an undergraduate College within the existing University structure. The goal was to focus the attention of the faculty, the students, the administration, and the alumni on the essential significance of undergraduate education. Jack organized extensive discussions through the Faculty Council which ultimately led that representative group to unanimously approve establishment of The College in December 1989.

Development of Peer-led Workshop

With all of his other accomplishments, his passion led to the development of the Peer-Led Team Workshop method of teaching. During the past fifteen years of his career, he had worked with Dean Vicki Roth and others, introducing the model in 1995 in sophomore organic chemistry, a class he taught. Most students took to the Workshop mode of teaching and learning like ducks to water because it gave them a chance to be active participants in a cooperative, non-threatening environment. The model has since been emulated by other departments at the University and other institutions. His influence has reached far beyond his Rochester classroom and laboratory and altered the learning environment of the College and the country in fundamental ways. Currently, the Workshop partnership is a local Rochester consortium involving more than 15-20 faculty members from eight different departments, the College Office of Learning Assistance Services, and approximately 125 peer leaders helping 1500 students per year. The partnership is also a national consortium that has been funded by the National Science Foundation to support approximately 100 schools that have organized 2000 peers to lead Workshops for at least 20,000 students per year.

Fellow chemistry professor and family friend, Joe Dinnocenzo, says of Kampmeier, "He was the quintessential mentor – generous with his time, critical but supportive, and always inspirational."