Mike Condren Memoir

Chemistry - A Career

My fascination with chemistry began with a A. C. Gilbert Chemistry Set which I got for Christmas in the mid-1950s. My favorite experiment was boiling a solution of copper(II) sulfate to distill away the water and collect it in a second testtube. I began performing that experiment on the porch of our apartment at 121 South 6th Street in Van Buren, AR. I recently found my chemistry set in our garage. It was in horrible condition as you can see below.

When I got in the 11th grade, I took Chemistry from Mrs. Katherine Ramer, my first mentor. Her son Ted was my best friend, but he did not possess my passion for chemistry. Sometime that fall of 1958, I learned that Mrs. Ramer was staying late each day to conduct an inventory of chemicals in the lab. I volunteered to help her. That led me to staying late each afternoon and helping her with the inventory and setting up experiments. I loved it!. I knew then that I was going to become a chemist rather than an electrical engineer.

Mrs. Ramer's husband got a new job in Virginia, and they moved there in the summer between my junior and senior year. The replacement science teacher was a biologist with little interest in chemistry and less knowledge. I offered to help him with the lab. He basically let me run the lab, set up the schedule and set up the experiments. I spent long hours in the lab when not in my classes. I decided to major in chemistry in college. At graduation from high school, Principal Calvin Patterson, my physics teacher, presented me with the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Metal, the first given at Van Buren High School.

I went to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and began a Bachelor of Science major in Chemistry. My freshman chemistry professor was Dr. Lester Howick. I enjoyed his lectures so much that I took three upper level classes from him in analytical chemistry. My organic professor the next year was Dr. Noyce. I used his outline approach to teaching organic when I taught it for 10 years at The College of the Ozarks after graduate school. Drs. Wally Cordes and Dale Johnson were my inspirations to become an inorganic chemist. After the required Advanced Inorganic course from Dr. Johnson, I took Advanced Inorganic II which was team taught by Drs. Cordes and Johnson. I talked Dr. Johnson into letting me take Inorganic Preparations. That introduced me to my specialty of coordination compounds of transition metals. That year I joined the American Chemical Society. I also graded papers for Dr. Johnson which was an introduction to what grad school would be like. Years later, Jan and I were introduced to Mrs. Johnson by Dr. Johnson saying that I was his first paper grader. I graduated in 1965.

The picture below shows my name recently stamped into the wet concrete of the side walk at the SW corner of the Agriculture Building.

Before the ceremony my parents presented me with a graduation card which contained the key to a new Chevy II four-door, my first car, seen here in front of Mrs Stockford's house with Mother walking up the steps.
They also presented me with the payment book.

I received a Teaching Assistantship at the University of Missouri at Rolla. I reported there in late August of 1965. During my first year, I lived with a young couple with a small boy some distance off campus. I took my meals where ever I felt like. During the fall semester I visited with the faculty to determine who would become my research advisor. At the time, there were only two Inorganic professors, and I chose Dr. H. O. McDonald, the teacher of my Inorganic course. His PhD was from the University of Arkansas. During that first semester I taught several General Chemistry Labs. I had to attend freshman lectures for my recitation sections. I answered questions and worked problems during those recitation sessions before giving a quiz. I was terrified about not being able to work a problem in front of the students so I worked all of the problems ahead of class.

Things changed with the Spring Semester. Dr. McDonald was the director of the Physical Chemistry program. He assigned me to assist in those labs. At first he gave the prelab lecture. Then he assigned me that duty. As expected I graded the lab reports, but I also got the duty of making out and grading the exams, which was good preparation for my career.

I learned alot about teaching from Dr. McDonald. He was a very good teacher. I learned to grade 1 question at a time, sometimes just part of 1 question, for all of the students. This way my grading was consistent. I learned that when I finished a page, I summed up the number of points lost on the page and wrote that number as a minus inside a circle in the lower left hand corner of the page. When I completely finished grading all of the papers, I could then go back and sum up the negative points and subtract that number from the possible. I learned to try to never read the name of the student while grading papers so as to not influence the grading.

On my second sabbatical I taught a class in General Chemistry with 350+ students and 9 teaching assistants. After the evening "hour exams" for these students, the teaching assistants and I would gather in a classroom and grade those exams. Each person was assigned a section of the exam to grad. The papers were then passed to the next person for further grading. This allowed those papers to be consistently graded.

Dr. McDonald liked to fish for trout. I started fishing for trout with my grandfather when I was a teenager so I started going with Dr. McDonald to get to know him better. I had collected stamps as long as I could remember. He got into stamp collecting. We spent lots of time talking stamps. What we did not do was talk research. That turned me off fishing as it took time away from the lab and my work. After I got my degrees, I stopped collecting stamps and fishing.

The second year I moved into an efficiency apartment on the third floor of Stuart Apartments, one block from the Chemistry/Chemical Engineering building. There was a separate kitchen with dining area, a living room with a Murphy bed in a closet, and a bath through a different closet. I completed the degree requirements for a Master of Science degree in June 1967. My thesis was entitled "Some Complexes of Diketocyclobutenediol".

My third year was in a one bedroom apartment across the hall. The arrangement was the same except for the separate bedroom. That year I helped Dr. McDonald to organize a local section of the American Chemical Society. Before that we had to go to the University of Missouri in Columbia to attend ACS meetings.

I helped in the Physical Chemistry labs for several semesters until Dr. McDonald turned the Physical Chemistry program over to Dr. Gary Bertrand. I basically directed the other teaching assistants helping in the Physical Chemistry labs as well as teaching my share of the classes. This continued throughout my graduate studies until the first reading of my dissertation. My committee sent me back to do more research during the spring of 1971. My committee also decided that I needed to assist in the advanced freshman lab to get a better understanding of Qualitative Analysis. During the summer of 1970 I had worked with the instructor of this advanced freshman lab in creating sound Super-8 movies of the procedures. This work would prove very useful in my first teaching position. Teaching Qualitative Analysis lab also proved very useful in my first teaching position.

During the last 3-years of grad school, I moved to an apartment downtown, above a liquor store, across the street from the Frisco Railroad mainline. I could watch trains out the kitchen window! You entered through the dining area. The living room had a hide-a-bed. There was a separate bedroom and bath. There was a closet in the living room where I stored my slide collection. The slide projector was set up on a table behind the couch for impromptu slide shows. The screen was set up opposite the couch. The down side was the flashing "Wines", "Liquors" neon sign just outside the windows 6 days a week. I met several life long railfan friends who regularly came to my apartment for slide shows.

Finally in June 1971, I passed my oral and my dissertation entitled, "Some Complexes of Dihydroxycyclobutenedione", was accepted. I did not formally graduate and get hooded until the December Graduation.

As good as Dr. McDonald was as a teacher, he was not a researcher. In the 6 years I worked for him he never submitted a paper for publication nor made a presentation at a meeting. I made presentations at a Southwest Regional ACS meeting in Little Rock and a Midwest Regional ACS meeting in Kansas City. After I started at The College of the Ozarks, I wrote and submitted an article to Inorganic Chemistry which was published with me and Dr. McDonald as coauthors, "The Synthesis and Spectroscopic Properties of Vanadium(III) Squarate Trihydrate", S.M.Condren and H.O.McDonald, Inorganic Chemistry, Vol 12, 57(1973).

In my attempt to find a teaching position, I sent out about 100 letters of inquiry. In the meantime the Chairman of the Board of First Federal mentioned to my father that there was an opening at The College of the Ozarks (CofO). A year earlier they had mentioned in their reply to my inquiry that such would be the case. I interviewed with the college President and Academic Dean as well as the Chair of the Sciences and Math Division. They made an offer, and I began preparing to teach a full three course load in chemistry. Midway through the summer the Division Chair called and said that he had me scheduled to teach Calculus I. I said "Calculus I, I can not teach Calculus. Do you have anything else." He said that he planned to teach Fortran. I said "I can teach that." My first semester at CofO I had two courses of chemistry plus the Fortran. I felt better about teaching computers than math. Little did I know how that would influence my life!

So my formal teaching career started with me teaching General Chemistry at 8:00am, Organic Chemistry at 9:10am, and Fortran at 10:20am. I had Organic labs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons and General Chemistry Labs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. At the time there was not a computer in Johnson County! We rented a key punch where the students could punch their own cards. I would package them to send to UofA who ran the programs. I taught this course twice at CofO. During each of those terms, I took my students to Fayetteville so that they could see the computers. During the second such visit, I was taken into a room and shown the newest thing, the language Basic!

My first two years in Clarksville I lived in a 2-bedroom/2 bath apartment on the second floor of the Ford Hotel downtown, next door to the Malco theater. There was a barber shop out front on one side of the entrance and a coffee shop on the other. There was a grocery store out the back door and down the stairs and another across the street out front. The apartment had 2-bathrooms and was furnished with a color TV in the living room/kitchen. I rode my 10-speed bike most days to campus up the hill on College Ave.

Xerox machines were just starting. My dissertation was printed with the aid of one. However, I never had such a machine for class use during my 10 years at CofO. I used a used IBM electric typewriter using the "Columbus system" to type my exams on purple duplicator sheets. The weekly quizes and hour exams proved very time intensive.

During the January term that first year, I taught a course in making Super 8 movies for use in the General Chemistry Lab during the spring semester. We rehearsed using a black and white video recorder. I then shot the experiment in color using my Super 8 movie camera. After development, I edited the film into reels for each unknown. The movies were used to show the students how the experiment should be performed and what the results should look like. The students were required to watch the movie before they began analyzing a new unknown. Those movies were used throughout my 10 years at CofO.

That Interim term I also helped team teach the course in Environmental Problems with one of the Biology teachers. Later I would work with the Ozark Area Mission (OAM) which gave students academic credit for volunteer work. My contribution was supervising and working with the students in the Recycling Center in Ft. Smith, AR. On Saturdays during the school year, students would drive the OAM van to the center and spend the day helping recycle materials. Many weekends I worked along side of the students crushing cans and break glass. Amazing that none got ill breaking glass IV bottles contributed by one of the local hospital. The hospital just dumped bottles, tubing, and needles in steel barrels and shipped them to the center. We would reach into those barrels, grab a bottle, and then throw it into the bottom of another barrel to break the glass. We then would grab the tubing and needles and move them to another container. AIDS was not the concern in those days that it has now become.

Early on I became involved with the Science Club of CofO. That led me to become the Sponsor of the Arkansas Collegiate Academy of Science for one year. The Science Club had parties in which I cooked pizza. The last such party at my new home involved cooking 36 pizzas, 2 at a time in my oven. The Science Club members helped host the annual open house for high school students, cleaning the building, setting up demonstrations, and hosting the students. The students and I attended meetings of the Arkansas Academy of Science.

In the mid-70s Dr. Jack Bridgeman in Biology and I were contacted by the US Forest Service about analyzing waste water for the natural gas exploration that was taking place in the Ozark National Forest. We formed an informal partnership whereby he collected the water samples at the well sites, and I and my students analyzed the water for the parameters specified by the Forest Service. Eventually Jack decided he did not want to participate any more so I took over by myself for the last year or so while we were in Clarksville.

In the late 70s there was a push to mine more coal. This got people who wanted to "get rich quick" to get into the strip mining business. However, they did not have labs to perform the tests requested by their customers. As the only chemist in the county, I was asked to get into the coal analysis business. The test they needed involved testing for the coking ability of the coal. I took a 1.0000g sample of powdered coal and heated it a specifed way in a rose quartz crucible and then measured the resulting "button" for its size and shape. The first company went bankrupt owing me some money. The concern that took over their operation had to settle up this debt before I would work for them.

The instrumentation of the chemistry department at CofO was very limited when I arrived. They had a Spec20 colorimeter, a gas partitioner, a digital pH meter, a constant flow rate buret, and a strip chart recorder. They also had 3 Mettler analytical balances. It was hard to teach Organic Chemistry without an IR spectrometer. After a couple of years, luckily Dr. Rowbotham, Division Chair, was able to pick up a used IR at government surplus in North Little Rock. It was missing its NaCl prism which dispersed the radiation. We bought a replacement prism for $500 and had a working IR.

However, I continued to look for ways of getting access to more instrumentation. About 1974 Dr. T. D. Roberts of the University of Arkansas approached me about CofO joining a consortium which was writing a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to solve instrumental problems at small colleges. The proposal was funded, including a 6-week training workshop for the users at the University of Arkansas. The workshop included training on how to make basic repairs in addition to learning how to use the instrument. Twelve small colleges, 6 in Arkansas and 6 in Kansas, began the program.

A 1-ton step van visited the various campuses with a NMR spectrometer, a mass spectrometer, an IR spectrophotometer, an AA spectrophotometer, a UV-Visible spectrophotometer, and a gas chromatograph. The visits were for 1-week each semester. The school receiving the van was responsible for picking up and driving the van to their campus. The NMR and mass spectrometers remained in the truck while the other instruments went into the users labs. Those instruments were stored in drawers during transit. The NMR and mass spectrometers had to have power and climate control while traveling so the truck had a 3-kW generator and air conditioning in the "lab" area. This program was a cover story in the Journal of Chemical Education, "Kinds of Chemistry that are Possible in a Mobile Spectroscopy Laboratory", T.D.Roberts, S.M.Condren, et al, J. Chem. Ed., Vol 55, 301(1978).
I normally picked up the truck and drove it to Clarksville on Saturday. Sunday was used to set up the truck and tune the NMR. While the program was in effect the students at CofO had the opportunity to learn on some very good equipment. I scheduled the NMR on 1-hour increments. I kept the lab open from 8am till Mid-night, Monday through Thursday. Friday was used to pack up everything for the next user. This made for a very long week as I was available to assist the students on all of the instruments when not in class. However, all good things must come to an end. The funding for the program ran out in the spring of 1981.

Having establishing good relations with the University of Arkansas, I contacted Dr. A. W. Cordes about working in his X-ray crystallography lab and learning about that teachnique. Jan and I moved into an apartment in Fayetteville for the summer with Jan working in the UofA Mullins Library and me working for Wally in Chemistry. During my time in 1980 I worked with Paul Swepston who became the President, Global Life Science Division at Rigaku Corporation, a supplier of X-ray equipment.

During the summer of 1980, Dr. Bill Durham offered a workshop on interfacing microcomputers with laboratory instruments. I was using a Radio Shack TRS-80 micro while the others in attendance were using Commodore Pet or Apple II micros. That workshop led to collaborations on interfacing projects with Bill Durham. At that workshop I met Dr. Johnny Holmes of Christian Brothers College's Physics Department.

I returned in the summer of 1981. That summer I worked with Bill Pennington who is now a Professor of Chemistry at Clemson University and Editor of Chemical Crystallography. Both Paul and Bill are now leaders in the field of X-ray crystallography. In July 1981, Bill and I collected data using the following manual diffractometer. I collected data from 8am till mid-night and Bill collected data from midnight to 8am. This went on for 2 weeks during the following diffractometer.

Our data was published in the Journal of Coordination. Chemistry in 1982.

"Structural Chemistry of Necessarily Distorted bis(bipyridine complexes. The Crystal Structure of the Trans-[bis(2,2'-bipyridine)bis(triphenylphosphine)ruthenium(II)] and Trans-[bis(4,4'-dimethyl-2,2'bipyridine)bis(pyridine)ruthenium(II)] Cations", A.W.Cordes, B.Durham, P.N.Swepston, W.T.Pennington, S.M.Condren, R.Jensen, and J.L.Walsh, J. Coord. Chem., Vol 11, 251 (1982).

At the end of the summer of 1981, we returned to Clarksville and then made the trip into the wilds of the Ozark National Forrest for a water sample from a gas well. While working in the lab, I got a letter from The College of the Ozarks Academic Dean giving me 5 options for changing the grades of some foreign students who I had caught plagiarising extra point reports. THAT WAS THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMELS BACK! Jan was 7 months pregnant with our first child. I did not have a job offer, but we could not put up with cheating! We chose option 6 and made the decision to resign.

That night I got a call from the Acting Chair of the Chemistry Department at Christian Brothers College to come for an interview. (Did you say GOD was taking care of us.) I made the trip for the interview. I interviewed with the Acting Chair Br. James Albert Olkers, the Chair of the School of Sciences & Math Dr. Rel Morgan, and Academic Dean Br. Louis Althaus. I was assured that Christian Brothers College would back me up in cases of cheating by students. Br. James Albert made a tentative offer, contingent on the Chair of the Department approving the offer. The Chair, Dr. Lyle Wescott, called Dr. Cordes, my other Mentor. Lyle must have gotten a glowing review from Cordes as I was offered the job.

One of my responsibilities at Christian Brothers College was to keep the instrumentation functioning. In addition to my training as part of the Mobile Spectroscopy Lab, I had taken a summer workshop in electronics at UofA. That was much easier in the 1980s than today where everything is circuit boards and computer controlled. My teaching duties were to teach the General Chemistry course for non-majors and to teach Advanced Inorganic and Instrumental Analysis on alternate years. I was relatively successful in keeping the older IR, NMR, and UV-Visible spectrometers and gas chromatograph working. I wrote a successful proposal for a new UV-Visible spectrometer. I joined CBC with other local colleges and universities to form a consortium with Memphis State University for obtaining funding from NSF for a more powerful NMR spectrometer.

In the summer of 1982, I got an institutional grant to interface laboratory instruments to Commodore Pet microcomputers. Through a deal with the manufacturer, we bought 2 Pets and got a 3rd free. In conjunction with Dr. Bill Durham at UofA, I built several interfaces and reported about them at various chemistry meetings. The following is the interface that I built to interface a digital pH meter.

Over the next few years, colleague Dr. Ron Cable and I wrote computer programs and built what became known as the "Yacht Club". The programs that we wrote were for helping students to learn basic concepts in chemistry. Eventually we networked 6 Commodore 64 microcomputers. When PCs became available, I converted the programs to work on them.

At an early meeting of the Memphis Section of the American Chemical Society, I met Dr. David Jeter of Southwestern College, now Rhodes College. We had similar research interests and over the next 15 years collaborated on several research projects involving our students. We collaborated with Dr. Cordes at the University of Arkansas to perform X-ray Crystallographic analyses of the samples our students prepared. Using software on the computer at what had become Rhodes College, our students analyzed the data collected on the automatic diffractometer at UofA.

Our collaborations with Dr. Cordes led David Jeter and I to each do sabbaticals with him, mine in the fall of 1988. During that sabbatical I also worked with Dr. Bill Durham in preparing transition metal coordination compounds. Some of these compounds were used as tags for work with Dr. Frank Millett in biochemistry at UofA.

After I started teaching Chem 412 Advanced Analytical Chemistry, I designed an experiment involving computer interfacing.

In the mid 1980s I attended the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Kansas City, MO. At that meeting I attended a talk by a professor from Georgia Tech. The theme of the talk was that they were establishing a program whereby one of their departmental instrument technicians would travel to the campuses of smaller institutions to help maintain instruments at those smaller schools. CBU participated in this program until it was discontinued with me working with the technician during his visit. The GT technician traveled in a RV and parked near the CBU Science Center. There was a work bench in the RV whereby the technian could work on components during the late hours.

Over the years I became involved with taking my research students, and later other CBU chemistry students, to the annual meetings of Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society at the University of Tennessee at Martin or Murray State University in Kentucky.

Upon returning from my fall 1988 sabbatical at UofA, I took on teaching of the Quantitative Analysis which had been taught by Dr.Ron Cable who took a new job in FL. In 1990 I was honored with the Cooper Distinguished Professor Award.

Early in my career at Christian Brothers, I became involved with and became the faculty sponsor of the Chapter of Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS). Over the years we presented programs at local schools. After I started running the High School Chemistry Exam Program for the Memphis Local Section of ACS, the Student Affiliates started helping with those exams. This work led to several national awards for SAACS, including one Outstanding award. The Student Affiliates performed demonstrations during National Chemistry Week each year. One year I even got other faculty involved in the Mentos-Diet Coke demonstration. Seen below are, left to right, me; Dr. Bill Busler, chemistry; Dr. Katie Sauser, biology; and Dr. Stan Eisen, biology. For more views of demos click here.

In addition, the Student Affiliates assisted me with two "Mad Scientist" presentations at the Southaven Public Library in suburban Southaven, MS. We involved members of the audience in the experiments as seen below.
In the early '90s I assumed the position of Chair of the Chemistry Department. Dr. Rel Morgan, Dean of the School of Sciences and Math, charged me with the duty of getting an estimate for refurbishing all of the chemistry labs. At the time there were no prospects for funding such a project. We also assembled a wish list of laboratory equipment that we needed. Br. Edward Doody of the Grants Office got a Title III grant from the Department of Education to renovate the former student lounge into a new Inorganic Chemistry Lab. That work was completed in the summer of 1992.

In the summer of 1991, I had my knees replaced with prosthetic joints. The left knee got infected in the original surgery. After 9 months the joint was removed. During the fall 1992 semester, I taught my non-majors course from 2 wheel chairs, one on the lecture floor, one on the lab floor. At the time there was not an elevator in the Science Center. I drove myself to CBU and parked next to the building. I used crutches to get to the lecture floor where I had my first wheel chair. We had an adaptor for the overhead projector which displayed my computer screen on a projector screen for my lectures as I could not write on the black board. I used the faculty lounge as my office. For lab I used crutches to reach the floor with my lab where I had the second wheel chair. Unfortunately there was not a restroom on the lab floor so I put a urinal in the janitor's closet! I must have done a reasonable job with these mainly engineering students. Two of those students changed to Chemistry as their major. One is a practicing medical doctor in Memphis. The other got a PhD from Georgia Teach and works for the National Bureau of Standards in our nations capitol.

With the aid of spreadsheets, I developed ways of computing expected fundamental lines in IR and Raman spectra based on the shape of the molecule and its Character Table for my Advanced Inorganic course. Over several years I wrote this up and submitted it to the Journal of Chemical Education for publication. It was finally published in the summer of 1994 as the only article for which I was the sole author, "Group Theory Calculations of Molecular Vibrations Using Spreadsheets", S.M.Condren, J. Chem. Ed., Vol. 71, 486(1994).

In 1994 I decided to revise the General Chemistry course taken by engineering students, excepting those in chemical engineering. I decided that the solid state needed more emphasis. With that in mind I ordered a copy of a book being published by ACS and authored by Dr. Arthur B. Ellis, Dr. George C. Lisensky, et. al. concerning the introduction of material science in chemistry. I signed up to take a workshop by Art and George on the CBU campus as part of the NSF sponsored Chautauqua program. I also applied for a position in the NSF sponsored Summer Research Program in Solid State Chemistry. All of this came together in my working for Art in Madison, WI at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the summer of 1994. The new CHEM 115 was first offered in the fall of 1994.

My time in Madison during the summer of 1994 was without a car. I learned again to ride the bus where ever I needed to go. I lived in a dorm room of the Short Course program of the College of Agriculture. I had a refrigerator in my room. To get groceries, I rode the bus to the Hilldale Shopping Center. I would return to these dorms several times over the years in future summers.

My 1994 work with Art Ellis led to a year long sabbatical with him in 1998-99 during which I taught Advanced Inorganic in the fall semester and, in the spring, became a member of what became the Interdisciplinary Education Group of the Materials Research Science & Engineering Center. I also worked closely with George Lisensky from the neighboring Beloit College in Beloit, WI. That association continued through 2009 and included a second year long sabbatical in 2006-07. During those 15+ years, several kits were developed and marketed through the Institute of Chemical Education located at UW-Madison. I was also a coauthor on many publications, talks at meetings, and workshops at four Biennial Conferences on Chemical Education. Among the talks were presentations by me about teaching chemistry to engineering students at the national meeting of the American Institue Chemical Engineering in San Francisco and the American Chemical Society in New York.

During my second sabbatical at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I taught CHEM 103 in the fall, spring, and summer terms. I worked closely with Jim Manard in the Demonstration Lab. We did at least one demo each class period. Most of them I performed after the staff of the Demo Lab set them up. I performed several of these demos for my CBU students upon my return. The spring and fall classes were in the main lecture hall with over 350 students and 9 teaching assistants. The summer class was in the small auditorium with only 50 students and 2 teaching assistants. In the fall and spring terms, the CHEM 103 Lab that was tied to my lecture had 16 lab sections. The summer term class only had 2 lab sections.

While I was in WI for the summer of 1994, the people in the development office at CBU had been at work. St. Francis Hospital had been sold and a new foundation, the Assisi Foundation, had been formed to assist Catholic organizations. CBU would be the first receipient, in particular the Chemistry Department in Phase I. When I got formal quotes from Ravensberg, a laboratory construction and renovation company, there was not enough money to renovate all of the chemistry labs. However, that summer, the Analytical/Biochemistry lab with the oldest benches, which once had been in the school when it was located on Adams Street, the Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Instrumental labs did get renovated. In addition roughly $300K worth of new instrumentation was obtained. I offically supervised the demolition and reconstruction during that summer.

During the summer of 1996, the auditorium area of the Science Center got renovated, including computers at the lecture station and video projection systems. The lecture hall for chemistry, with my suggestion, even got a lecture bench with a sink and electrical power. This allowed me to begin my General Chemistry lectures with a demonstration which helped engineering students to appreciate chemistry and its contributions to their world. About this time we were required to take roll of our classes. I took that opportunity to introduce the idea of incorporating a demo quiz around the demonstrations for the collecting the names of those in attendance.

I was elected Chair Elect of the Memphis Section of the American Chemical Society in 2003. I then served as Chair for 2004 and Past Chair in 2005. The Memphis Local Section hosted the 2005 Southeastern/Southwestern Regional Meeting of the ACS and the CBU Student Affiliates hosted the student portion of the meeting. Colleague Dr. George Lisensky of Beloit College was the keynote speaker for the student meeting.

Finally in 2005 the freshman chemistry labs got refurbished. The General Chemistry Lab was designed to be a high tech lab with multiple computer workstations in addition to conventional chemistry lab benches. Each computer work station got a state of the art computer. In addition each computer work station got a National Instruments ELVIS interface for connecting to laboratory equipment. Our son Matt Condren was a freshman student in the course. He taught himself the computer language for the interface, Lab View, and designed, with my direction, 3 experiments involving the ELVIS interface: real time monitoring of a Heat of Solution reaction, measuring the band gap energy of LEDs, and following the progress of a kinetics reaction. The lab already had a video projection system to allow the instructor to present the prelab information for that day's experiments.

Here we see Matt Condren and his lab partner performing the Heat of Solution experiment.

Near the end of my teaching career, my health hit a couple of bumps in the road: 2 minor strokes and a minor heart attack. On my last night in the hospital with the heart attack, our son Matt spent the night in the hospital with me. We struck up a conversation about how I could teach my lectures from home. I suggested to Matt that he go by Dr. Juan Carlos Olabe's office and borrow what we would need for me to lecture from my recliner at home. He got a video camera and microphone. We set up for connecting my laptop to the web. At the same time, Dr. Olabe and others at CBU set up my lecture hall with a video camera and microphone. I could see my students, and they could see me! It was arranged for an engineering student to be in the classroom to solve any problems with the system. Below is a photo by the campus photographer in that classroom during one of my classes showing me on the screen along with my class notes and showing a couple of the students in Quantitative Analysis.

I retired from CBU at the end of the 2008-09 school year by handing Matt his diploma. This photo was taken by my daughter, Virginia, from the top of the auditorium using my camera and its tele lens.

After my first year of teaching, The College of the Ozarks Academic Dean had told me that I was too close to my students. He meant it as a criticism. How little did he realize that that would be the theme of my teaching career. In my opinion. being a mentor to students is a very important part of teaching. I continue to take great pride in being close to my students, many of whom are long time personal friends and not all of them were science majors. One of those non-science majors described me to his brother, "But he'll do chemistry till the last day."

Jan's pastorate led to me recognizing my other theme to teaching. While serving the church at Kennett, MO, we were invited over to the home of a member after the Christmas Eve community service. That night I met Sheryl Crow in her mother's kitchen. I bought one of her CDs and discovered "All I want to do is have some fun". I played this song as the theme of my courses from then on. As that is why I have always wanted to do Chemistry.

Click on Prof. Condren's curriculum vita and list of publications for copies.

Mike's Award from Student Government Association

After one year of retirement Jan got a church in Tahlequah, OK. One of the members of her choir is the Chair of the Natural Sciences Department of Northeastern State University. She offered me a job of teaching freshman chemistry lab one day a week. I spent the fall semester commuting from Memphis to teach on Tuesday afternoon while preparing our Memphis home for sale. There was not a formal office for me so I set up each Tuesday morning in the University Library in the food court area of the first floor.

On Feb. 22, 2014, I received a package from the American Chemical Society that contained the lapel pin and "fifty year member" gold card. This card entitles me entry to any ACS regional or national convention without payment of the registration fee.

On June 30, 2014 I was honored by the Tulsa Local Section of the American Chemical Society along with another 50 year member and a 60 year member by a dinner meeting. Cousin Dr, Richard Skinner and his wife Sandra joined Jan and I at this gathering. It was a special event. I spoke about my career and ACS membership including the importance of me being a mentor to my students. Below are the handouts from that dinner.

This page was designed and is maintained by Mike Condren. If you have materials
that you would like to contribute, contact me at mcondren@cbu.edu