ARTHUR RICHARD CHOPPIN SR., (1897-1974), professor of chemistry and dean of the College of Chemistry and Physics, oversaw the conversion of the basic sciences at LSU from a unit largely engaged in teaching to one that promoted research by its faculty and students. Professor Choppin graduated from LSU in 1918 with majors in chemistry and botany. During World War I he served as a lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps, which led to his life-long association with the American Legion. He served as State Commander of this group and through it promoted service programs for young men and women, including the Boys State and Girls State programs. While serving as an instructor at LSU, he obtained a master’s degree in chemistry in 1925. He took a leave of absence to obtain a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1929. He became an assistant professor of chemistry at LSU and established a research program in kinetics. After promotion to full professor in 1936 he was made dean of the college in 1944, where he remained until his retirement in 1968. During his tenure as dean, the college expanded from 24 to 61 faculty, and Ph.D. programs were greatly expanded. Professor Choppin trained a number of Ph.D. students, perhaps most notably Dr. Hulen Williams, who would succeed him as dean of the college in 1968. His distinguished career was finally honored with his selection as a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists.
GROVER ELMER MURRAY (1916-2003), Boyd Professor of geology and LSU vice president of academic affairs, had a distinguished career that encompassed University leadership and administration at LSU, membership in various national organizations, and culminated as President of Texas Tech. Professor Murray began his association with LSU in 1937 as a geology graduate teaching fellow. He received his master’s degree in 1939 and a Ph.D. in 1942. He would spend the first part of his career working for Magnolia Petroleum Company, but returned to LSU, and quickly rose to important positions that included departmental chair and director of the state geological survey. During the course of his career, he served as president of four of geology’s major national organizations: the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Sedimentary Geology, the American Institute of Professional Geology, and the American Geological Institute. He received three international science prizes: the Powers Medal, the Twenhofel Medal, and the US Antarctic Science Medal. He served as senior editor for two major journals: Paleontology and the AAPG Bulletin. His book Geology of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Province of North America is still regarded as an authoritative reference in stratigraphy. Two American presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, asked Dr. Murray to serve on successive National Science Boards. Indeed, he influenced national science policy for more than a dozen years on various committees and boards for Antarctica, the global oceans, large-scale scientific drilling, and large-scale seismic surveys.
EDWARD B. PICOU, JR., alumnus of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, has had a distinguished career as a geologist in the petroleum industry, though even this is perhaps eclipsed by his outstanding record of service to LSU and to the geology profession. Mr. Picou graduated from LSU with a B.S. in geology in 1955 and was immediately commissioned into the Army for a tour of duty that included 18 months in Korea. Much of his career was spent with Shell Oil Co., in New Orleans, retiring as Exploration Consultant, Shell’s highest scientific rank. He has published a number of major papers and the influential book Gulf of Mexico Basin Biostratigraphic Index Fossils, which a colleague refers to as the “rosetta stone” for scientists trying to understand the last 60 million years of sedimentation in the southern US. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and holds the Distinguished Service Medal from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. He has served as a national officer for numerous professional organizations, notably as vice president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and treasurer of the Society of Sedimentary Geologists. Mr. Picou is a charter member of the LSU Geology Alumni Advisory Council, and was chair of that group for more than 10 years, helping to raise funds for scholarships and the Colorado Field Camp. He has served for a number of years on the College of Basic Sciences Development Council, for the past two years as chair of the Executive Committee.
JAMES G. TRAYNHAM, emeritus professor of chemistry, department chair, and vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate School, has had a long and distinguished career of teaching, research, and administration at LSU. Professor Traynham received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1950 and conducted post-doctoral research for three years at Ohio State University before joining the faculty at LSU. Among his many accomplishments was his instrumental role in LSU’s successful application to become a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Science and Math. His distinguished career at LSU included eight years as vice chancellor for research. Part of this latter job included duties as dean of the Graduate School. He thoroughly reorganized the Graduate School, formalizing and standardizing a previously fragmented and uneven set of programs across the campus. These interests led him to national contributions, including service as president of the Southern Association of Graduate Schools and board member for the U.S. Council of Graduate Schools. With all this, he still managed to mentor 11 master’s students, 19 Ph.D. students, and nine post-doctoral fellows, and publish over 80 scientific journal articles. His workbook in organic chemistry, now in its sixth edition, is still used by undergraduate students. Professor Traynham continues to be active with local and national committees of the American Chemical Society, and has recently been particularly interested in the history of chemistry. He has edited a book Essays on the History of Organic Chemistry and organized efforts to obtain and archive an oral history of the science.
PHILIP W. WEST (1913-2001), emeritus Boyd Professor of chemistry, had a distinguished career as an educator, researcher, and business entrepreneur. Dr. West received his Ph.D. in 1939 at the University of Iowa and joined the LSU faculty in 1940. By 1953 he had such an impressive record that he was in the first class of LSU faculty to become Boyd Professors. He published over 180 scientific articles and three books in the field of water treatment and analysis, polarized light microscopy, chromatography, air pollution, industrial hygiene, and personal monitors. Many of these ideas had such commercial appeal that he also founded a private company that would eventually become West-Paine Laboratories. His national science awards included three from the American Chemical Society: the Southwest Award, the Fisher Award, and the Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology. He served on numerous editorial boards, and was on the Advisory Boards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the National Bureau of Standards. With all this he was still a devoted teacher, educator, and mentor to students and young faculty. He founded and directed for 17 years the annual LSU Symposium on Modern Methods of Analytical Chemistry, which brought essentially all of the well-known names in analytical chemistry to the LSU campus between 1948 and 1965.