Campus News

Professor William Fuchsman Retires

May 24, 2013

Communications Staff

William Fuchsman (right) works with a student in his lab.
Photo credit: Matt Lester

Professor of Chemistry William H. (Bill) Fuchsman retired in February 2013. When he joined Oberlin’s chemistry department in summer 1970, he had earned a BA in biochemical sciences (1963) at Harvard College and a PhD in physiological chemistry (1968) at Johns Hopkins University, and he had conducted postdoctoral research at the University of South Florida and at E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company.

At Oberlin, Fuchsman taught the first semester of general chemistry (Chem 101), two semesters of organic chemistry (Chem 205 and Chem 206), and biochemistry (Chem 374). He also created and taught an alternative second semester of organic chemistry that focuses on biological organic chemistry (Chem 254) and a general audience course on the causes and treatment of cancer (Chem 163 and FYSP 114). In his teaching methodology he was greatly influenced by certain aspects of the Keller Plan (also known as mastery learning) and incorporated into his courses explicit expectations of students and frequent quizzes with instant feedback.

Fuchsman also worked with students on numerous research projects. His research dealt with the chemistry of hemoglobin and related proteins, the chemistry of porphyrins (pigments whose compounds containing iron ions include the hemes of hemoglobin), and methods for quantitative measurements of the amounts of sugars and the amounts of certain biological oxidizing agents (such as the substance with the acronym NAD).

Fuchsman twice chaired the chemistry department (now the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry). He served on and at times chaired the Health Plan Board, the Winter Term Committee, the College Admissions Committee, and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. For several years he served as the informal director of a summer preorientation program for outstanding incoming potential science and mathematics majors who were first-generation college students, from groups underrepresented in higher education, and/or international students. He served many years as a premedical advisor.

Since the late 1990s, Fuchsman has participated in an Oberlin-area human rights organization, the Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment (SEPA), that funds human rights observers in Guatemala and supports education in two rural, indigenous (Mayan) villages in northwest Guatemala. Since 1999, SEPA has arranged winter-term group projects in rural Guatemala, and Fuchsman has served as faculty sponsor for the projects. He has traveled to Guatemala several times in connection with SEPA’s activities. He often can be found at the Oberlin Farmers Market, raising funds for SEPA through food and textile sales.

Fuchsman took research sabbaticals at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra , Australia; Indiana University; and Case Western Reserve University. He carried out laboratory research in Oberlin during most summers of his academic career. He delivered a Shansi-supported four-week lecture series on plant hemoglobins and nitrogen fixation at the Shanxi Agricultural University in China, an experience he calls an “honor and pleasure.”

Bill and his wife, Barbara, plan to stay in Oberlin. His near-term retirement activities include writing up research results and seeking publication for his Chem 254 textbook, as well as reading, gardening, and helping SEPA.


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