The American Chemical Society (ACS) has named former WSU chemists Glenn A. Crosby and Jane L. Crosby the recipients of its 2009 award for service to chemistry education and the ACS.

The award will be presented in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 22, at the ACS annual meeting.

This marks the first time the Charles Lathrop Parsons Award has been given to more than one person — which is the only way Glenn Crosby would accept it, the retired professor told the Chemical and Engineering News.

“I was astounded that the ACS board even considered us for this honor. The Parsons Award has always been bestowed upon an individual, not a team, so when I was approached by a longtime colleague who wanted to nominate me for the society’s most prestigious service award, I asked him not to do it.”

Crosby said he wouldn’t accept the award alone because all of his service work has been done in partnership with his wife, Jane, who is a chemist in her own right.

“I thought that was the end of it,” Glenn Crosby said. “So the call from ACS board chair Judy Benham was not only a surprise, but the news was truly astonishing.”

The Crosbys were college sweethearts at Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania, where both earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and mathematics in 1950. After college they married and moved to Seattle, where Glenn pursued a doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of Washington.

They came to WSU in 1967, Glenn holding a faculty position in chemistry and Jane managing his labs and handling a range of administrative duties related to the couple’s efforts to teach chemistry to youngsters and to schoolteachers. They stayed at WSU until their retirement, Jane in 1997 and Glenn in 2001.

While Glenn attained prominence for his research in molecular electronic spectroscopy, he and Jane directed several professional development programs for teachers, including a master of arts program for high school teachers and an intensive laboratory program for high school chemistry teachers in Chile.
 
Jane established the WSU student affiliates chapter of the ACS and created and was first editor of the newsletter for the ACS Division of Chemical Education (DivCHED).

Glenn further contributed to the ACS by chairing the DivCHED, the Committee on Education, and the Committee on Grants and Awards. He also served on the society’s board of directors for nine years.

With their daughter, Karen, the Crosbys ran the Cougar Summer Science Camp, a one-week residential camp for 8th and 9th graders, for 17 years.

“I designed the program, gave all the lectures and managed the labs. Jane did everything else,” Glenn joked.
 
During the week-long program each year, the Crosbys bunked in a dorm with the students.
 
“If you do not think that riding herd on 100 teenagers for a week is hard work, then you are not well informed,” he said.

The Crosbys were principal investigators on “Operation Progress,” a program for high school teachers that ran at the DivCHED Biennial Conferences on Chemical Education. They planned and managed the DivCHED programs and six national ACS meetings. Jane also managed several National Science Foundation institutes for high school and middle school teachers in the Pacific Northwest.

The couple’s work on behalf of chemistry education didn’t end with their formal retirement from WSU.
 
Their latest project for ACS is raising a $300,000 endowment so that each year a deserving high school science teacher in each of the 10 regions of ACS can receive a substantial cash award. The size of the endowment is expected to ensure that the award is funded in perpetuity.
 
Glenn proposed the venture, and Jane drafted the letters, ferreted out potential donors and managed the project. The first awards were presented in 2007.

“I suspect this will be our last big endeavor for ACS,” said Glenn Crosby recently, alluding to the fact that he and Jane both turn 81 this year. “The best way to become recognized is to outlive your contemporaries. I guess that says it all.”