David Richardson

Thank goodness you didn’t show up in your boxers. You’ve done it before.

You’ve famously come to the first day of class in a bathrobe to act out “a day in your life with organic chemistry.” Ducking behind your desk for costume changes, you’ve led laughing students through the innumerable roles that organic compounds play in their lives, from perfumes to synthetic fibers.

You have taken a course that’s often regarded at other schools as “Parris Island for premeds” and made it an intellectual adventure. Lecture notes lie untouched as you flow through the most complex material, accompanied by your beautifully precise chalk renderings. One colleague says, “Dave has helped thousands of students appreciate the subtle elegance of structure and reactivity: concepts on which nature relies to build organic molecules with fascinating functions.” Another says, “Williams’ organic chemistry curriculum is effectively a Dave Richardson curriculum.”

You’ve engaged students in your research on natural products synthesis and analysis, too, studying everything from folk medicines and blow dart poisons to PCBs in local rivers, and often giving students their first co-authorship in the process. You aspired to be a novelist, and that talent shows in your lovingly crafted recommendation letters. Many physicians, professors and researchers say they owe their careers to your teaching and support—as do plenty of lawyers, executives and philosophers.

You’ve shown students how to live well, too—and not only through chemistry. Your sense of life balance is evident from the way you helped design our Science Center and are building your own house. Contributed to the creation of our Summer Science program and sailed the Caribbean. Telemark skied and taught science camp with your colleague and friend, Chip Lovett.

We’re not going to dress this up: The naked truth is that you’ve made Williams a model for excellence in science education and research. Just maybe not a model for classroom fashion.

I hereby affirm you as William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors and privileges appertaining thereto.

July 23, 2022