Dr. Jack H. Lunsford is a caring person who gave many things during his 44 years as a chemistry professor at Texas A&M University, from an education to thousands of students to a helping hand to his peers -- and to all, the gift of a long-lasting friendship.

Lunsford earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Texas A&M in 1957 and retired from his alma mater in 2008 as a distinguished professor emeritus. Through the years in between, those who knew him were impacted by decades of invaluable mentorship and camaraderie. In tribute to his generous legacy, they decided to take action of their own, establishing an endowed fellowship to honor Lunsford as an equally renowned scientist and respected gentleman.

Established through the Texas A&M Foundation with combined gifts from lifelong friends, classmates, former students and colleagues, the Jack H. Lunsford '57 Endowed Fellowship in Chemistry will provide one or more fellowships to support deserving graduate students in the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry who are conducting research in the areas of surface science and catalysis, two areas in which Lunsford pioneered key scientific advances.

"I'm very gratified and very pleased to see that research in catalysis will be continued," Lunsford said. "I hope it will be a means of attracting graduate students and building that area of study."

Using spectroscopic techniques to identify active centers and reaction intermediates, Lunsford crafted a long and illustrious career, one that began at Texas A&M in 1966. His notoriety extended beyond Texas and the United States and into the international scientific community. His research with surface-generated gas-phase radicals paved the way for the basic understanding of the mechanics of oxidative-coupling reactions, particularly those involving methane -- technology that could help make use of the vast reserves of natural gas in this country.

Lunsford's research attracted many junior colleagues from around the world, resulting in collaborative efforts with several groups in Europe. His approach to both teaching and research was so admired that his laboratory was often the subject of imitation. Dr. Michael P. Rosynek, professor of chemistry and associate department head, was a graduate student at Rice University in 1971 at the time of his first encounter with Lunsford, whose lab he had come to visit in hopes of getting some experimental design recommendations. Two years later, Rosynek joined him on the chemistry faculty at Texas A&M, where the two have enjoyed a close friendship for the last 38 years and also published a number of research papers together.

"Because of his demeanor, Dr. Lunsford was always viewed as the gentlemanly type," Rosynek said. "He never raised his voice, so he was greatly respected by students and colleagues alike."

It was Rosynek who, along with Dr. William R. Howell Jr., Texas A&M class of 1969 and a retired research and development director of The Dow Chemical Company, initiated discussions to establish a fellowship in Lunsford's name two years ago. Howell, who currently serves as director of business development for The Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization, coincidentally also first met Lunsford as a graduate student while at Texas A&M in the late 1960s. He remembers being impressed with Lunsford's natural ability to break down the toughest chemistry conundrums into simple, easily explained -- and, therefore, understood -- elements.

"Here is someone who went to Texas A&M and whose research is being used in high-value applications in industry, and yet he's so low-key about it that few really understood how well-recognized he is throughout the world in the field of chemical catalysis," Howell said. "He has brought honor to Texas A&M and to those around him. Jack created value in the work that he did and the students he was affiliated with."

Having been raised in a family of avid Aggie supporters, Lunsford has had ties to the university from a very early age. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering in 1957 from Texas A&M, where he was Corps Commander, and his Ph.D. from Rice University in 1962. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force where he served as a 1st Lieutenant, he returned to Texas A&M in 1966 as an assistant professor of chemistry, eventually rising through the ranks to full professor in 1971. He was appointed a distinguished professor of chemistry in 1999 and, upon his partial retirement in 2000, a distinguished professor emeritus.

Lunsford, who has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, has been recognized with many career awards, including the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award in Petroleum Chemistry as well as the Award for Creative Research in Homogenous and Heterogeneous Catalysis. As a fitting bookend to his scientific legacy in Aggieland, he was honored last spring as both the namesake and inaugural recipient of a new College of Science award honoring Texas A&M former students not affiliated by major with the college who have performed extraordinary service to it: the Jack H. Lunsford '57 Award for Excellence in Service to the College of Science.

Though generally defined by his research, Lunsford has always been a strong advocate of graduate students and their value to the workforce. Continued research in catalysis aside, Lunsford is pleased that his fellowship will be another step for graduate students in the ultimate positive direction -- career success.

"I feel that research and teaching should be strongly aligned with one another," Lunsford said. "I've particularly enjoyed working with graduate students. Seeing them finish school and get jobs was always pleasing."

For more information about the Jack H. Lunsford '57 Endowed Fellowship in Chemistry and other giving opportunities, visit http://giving.tamu.edu.

For more information on Lunsford and his research, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu/faculty/faculty_detail.php?ID=63.


Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • Dr. Jack H. Lunsford

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