In April 1990, the inaugural NSF “Alliance for Undergraduate Education” was held in Ann Arbor. It was a national meeting about undergrad education reform.
One of the intro keynote speakers said that he hoped there would be ideas presented at this meeting that would cause people to rear their heads back and yell out “Holy Shit! What an idea!”
A day or so later…
In our large conference room in the chemistry building, I gave one of the first presentations ever on the (new) undergrad curriculum at Michigan, which we had started that last September 1989.
When the talk was done, the first person in the audience who spoke was Robert (Bob) Lichter, who was just ending his first year as the Executive Director of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.
Bob yelled out “Holy Shit! What an idea!”
It’s a great story. He and I were close ever since.
Robert L. Lichter (1941-2018)
As chair of chemistry at Hunter College (1970-1983), a program officer at Research Corporation (1983-1986), and as vice provost for research and graduate studies at SUNY-Stony Brook (1986-1989) Lichter led concerted efforts to increase the numbers of graduate students in all disciplines, including chemistry, from under-represented populations.
Executive Director, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, 1989-2002
To broaden the Foundation’s reach and the diversity of its award recipients, Lichter gave guidance about proposal writing to potential applicants from institutions that were disproportionately underrepresented among Dreyfus awardees. This resulted in an increase in the numbers of applications and nominations from these institutions, and a modest increase in the number of awardees.
He was a long-time active member in the American Chemical Society.
Perhaps the three most visible outcomes of his efforts are Dreyfus’s contribution to the Percy Julian film project, “Forgotten Genius”; the ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences; and the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.