VOLUME 25 #2

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The perfect segue

an image of the book cover

OUR FACULTY | “Here’s the formula for a long, rewarding and frankly exhausting career in academia: Teach two or three classes of 70-300 students apiece every semester. Mix in multiple turnovers in university leadership, radical leaps in scientific progress and the ceaseless demands of research. Repeat your teaching schedule for two semesters each year—then keep that up for 50 years.

Sum it all up, and the results of this volatile mixture might unsettle even a chemistry professor:

  • • In that time, you have taught roughly 46,000 students, give or take a wayward freshman or two.
  • • You have overseen more than 8,000 sessions of class, each with its countless individual episodes of diligence and inattention, excellence and excuses, brilliance and lassitude.
  • • Along the way, you could very well find yourself teaching your students’ now-college-age children, and then their children as well.
  • • In the end, you will, inevitably, be very, very tired.

Prof. Burnaby Munson sure is. The adorably irascible, Segway-riding, snack-loving, near-legendary UD chemistry professor and Honors Program pioneer is so tired, that this spring he finally did something he’s threatened to do for at least a decade: Retire.

Of course, in this wry 84-year-old’s mind, the concept of retirement seems to include hanging around into the current school year, “in case there’s things I’m needed for,” in which case the students of the Honors Program are surely pleased.

“The teaching and working with students has been the main reason for staying. It’s fun to watch the freshmen, to see how much they grow, to see them become independent. As they become more confident, you sit back and watch.”

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