ONU honors the legacy of one of its finest with the naming of the Donald J. Bettinger Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
In the 16 years that Dr. Donald J. Bettinger spent as professor and chair of ONU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, he was responsible for some of the program's greatest advances.
During that time, the department became the first chemistry program in northwest Ohio to be approved by the American Chemical Society for the professional education of chemists. While this is a given for a major college chemistry department today, at the time, only one in five chemistry programs nationwide received this recognition.
This also was the era when Ohio Northern furthered its reputation for chemistry research, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Health Education and Welfare Research Corporation. Most telling of the department’s growth, it played a major role in the planning and construction of a $3,250,000 science building, the Meyer Hall of Science.
These major accomplishments don’t include the steady growth the department enjoyed over that time. For instance, the faculty grew from one Ph.D., one M.S. and one B.S. holder to seven Ph.D. holders. Today, every single tenure-track faculty member holds a Ph.D. in chemistry. And during this time, ONU hosted the annual regional Junior Academy of Science and the statewide meeting of the Ohio College Chemistry Teachers Association, further entrenching itself as a leading school in the state for chemistry.
On April 15, 2016, ONU hosted a formal ceremony to name the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in Bettinger's honor. Walt Bettinger, Bettinger's son and supporter of the University, along with his family, shared fond memories of Ohio Northern and Ada. ONU President Dan DiBiasio, Provost David Crago, and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Catherine Albrecht officially announced the name change, forever making the name of Donald J. Bettinger synonymous with excellence in chemistry education.
“I can clearly see how the efforts led by Dr. Bettinger created a culture that has resulted in the sustained high quality of our program, which is directly responsible for our past and current students’ success,” says Dr. Chris Bowers, chair of the Donald J. Bettinger Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The success of ONU chemistry students in recent years is undeniable. Of the 10 Ohio Northern recipients of the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship since 2006, seven have been chemistry students. Today, students studying chemistry and/or biochemistry at Ohio Northern do so in a department that strongly values their success and takes every necessary step to help them achieve it. The department’s dedication to its students harkens back to Bettinger’s time, when he would visit all of the dorms the night before a chemistry exam to check on students and answer any lingering questions they may have had.
“I can personally attest that this department remains one of the most open-armed, caring and close-knit groups of academics on campus,” says Rebecca Phlipot, a senior biochemistry student from Marysville, Ohio. “They have helped each of us to grasp materials in and out of the classroom and procure REUs, internships and research positions. And they have always put in a good word for us on the vast number of applications we flood their inboxes with. They are always available, and we are all so grateful to them for making the chemistry department their second home.”
Bettinger’s quest to attain ACS accreditation led directly to this second home being built. The Meyer Hall of Science, and later the Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences, were constructed to provide the necessary environments for superior education. These buildings continue to house the Donald J. Bettinger Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, but the instrumentation inside them has changed with the times. Today, the department boasts state-of-the-art instrumentation usually found in larger institutions, including a recently-acquired 400-MHz (11.7 T) NMR with tunable (BBO) probe, HPLCs, Combiflash Companion purification system, solvent purification system, Vacuum Atmospheres glove-box, FTIRs, UV-Vis spectrometers, DSC, digital polarimeter, GC-MS, GCs, several laser-based spectrometers, and a Horiba Jobin Yvon Fluoromax-4 with a time-correlated single photon counting accessory. These capital investments in cutting-edge chemistry instruction would surely make the department’s namesake proud.
As much as Bettinger’s influence and leadership helped transform a single academic department, his dedication to Ohio Northern compelled him to do the same at the University level. There would be no Honors Day at ONU if not for Bettinger. Similarly, there would be two fewer academic honor societies adding prestige to the University had he not brought Phi Alpha Kappa and the Society of the Sigma Xi to ONU.
“Our department is not limited to great teaching. It also exemplifies great service,” says Cody Criss, a senior biochemistry student. “As students, we see how our professors serve the surrounding community, whether it’s being involved in our local food drive, staffing summer camps or being active within surrounding churches.”
Bettinger exemplified what it means to be an Ohio Northern University professor. He strived for greatness both from his students and from himself as he fought to build the department into a model for others to aspire to.
scroll down for more photos from the dedication ceremony
The Bettinger family. First row from left: Walt Bettinger, Coralen Bettinger, Kathy Kibler. Second row from left: Teri Bettinger, Mollie Mae Kibler, Makenzie Bettinger, D.J. Bettinger, Jerry Kibler.