Dr. Thomas R. Beebe
Nathaniel Southgate Shaler Memorial
Professor of Chemistry, Chair
B.S., Ohio University, 1954; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1960

In memory, July 1998

Dr. Thomas Beebe passed away in July 1998. He was survived by his son, Eric Cooper, his daughter-in-law, Shannon, and their baby Savannah. Tom spent almost 40 years literally giving his life to Berea College and he will surely be missed. The press released issued by the President's office does a good job of summarizing parts of Tom's life, but it would take a multi-volume set to truly do him justice.

Press Release issued by office of the President to the College

With deep sadness I write to share the news that our dear friend, colleague, and mentor Thomas R. Beebe, Nathaniel Southgate Shaler Memorial Professor of Chemistry, passed away this morning (July 8, 1998). As you know, Tom had been contending bravely against a melanoma-related brain tumor and associated stroke since May 22. Although this is heart-breaking news perhaps the College community can find some measure of solace in the knowledge that Tom is resting in peace after such a painful struggle. He was 65 years old.

Tom earned the A.B. and B.S. degrees in Chemistry from Ohio University in 1954, and the Ph.D. in Organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1960. He came to Berea in 1959. Ever since, Tom devoted himself to assisting Berea College students in all aspects of their learning and their lives. His influence on students and colleagues, and on teaching and research in the sciences at Berea, is simply incalculable. The words of Tom's former students make this clear. In 1987, Tom was nominated for the Pew Appalachian Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Sciences. Several colleagues and former students sent letters supporting his nomination. One former student wrote, "Tom Beebe's influence on my life, and that of many others, has been great and profound. I am sure that my choice to become a chemist , and more particularly to become a faculty member at a liberal arts college came directly from the role model set by Tom Beebe." That former student is Larry Blair, Dean of the Faculty at Berea College. Another student wrote, "I have known Dr. Beebe since he first came to Berea College as a faculty member in 1959. At that time I was a student in the introductory chemistry class which he taught. I was very impressed with the clarity and organization of his lectures and with the energy and wit with which he delivered those lectures. Clearly, he was a role model worthy of emulation" That former student is Dr. Smith T. Powell, Professor of Physics at Berea College. Yet another former student, Dr. Jimmy Wayne Viers, who now teaches chemistry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute wrote, "Dr. Beebe's interest in following the progress of each of his students is unparalleled in all the educators I have known. After leaving Berea, I enrolled in medical school. At the end of one semester, I had decided that the practice of medicine was not the right choice of career for me. I dropped out of medical school and had reached, I felt, a critical juncture in my life. I felt very apprehensive about my future, no knowing where to turn at this point. Dr. Beebe had somehow heard of my plight, and flew, at his own expense from Berea to Winston-Salem to give me support and counseling. He was instrumental in getting me into Wake Forest's chemistry program and when I had decided on the choice of pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, he was again instrumental in helping me gain admittance to Stanford University...Almost every chemistry major, and many non-chemistry majors from Berea...have similar stories to relate." Tom not only won the prestigious Pew award and many other awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship, but he witnessed daily evidence of how his life, work and counsel shaped for the good the course of others' lives.

Tom was also a prolific researcher, and, through the summer undergraduate research program he began in 1965, he inspired in his students a passion akin to his own for the pursuit of knowledge. He and his student researchers co-authored nearly twenty articles, and he secured so many grants in support of the summer research program that in 1981 the Journal of Chemical Education ranked Berea College eighth in the number of research grants awarded to undergraduate chemistry departments and thirteenth in American Chemical Society research publications authored by the faculty of such departments. These were extraordinary accomplishments for a three-person department. A decade ago, Tom made a list of his students who went on to become physicians and professors; not surprisingly, it is many pages long.

Tom also loved to camp and hike, and, for as long as anyone can remember, he spent part of every summer enjoying those pursuits in the western United States. He always took students along. When the College changed to the 4-1-4 calendar, Tom introduced his popular Short Term travel course to the West. For many student travelers, it was the first sojourn outside their home area; for all, it was a time of laughter and learning and discovery.

Tom served Berea College and its students in many other ways, as well. He raised over a hundred thousand dollars for scientific instrumentation. He chaired the Department of Chemistry, advised pre-medical students, served as head resident of Pearsons and Bingham Halls, developed curricula, sat on countless committees, and otherwise made his presence felt in every corner of the College. He also helped organize baseball for the youth of the town of Berea, and he worked for years to ensure the programšs continuous success.. It is hard to count how many ways Tom found to make the College and the town better places; it is hard to fathom how much we Bereans will miss this great mentor and good man.

Tom was preceded in death by his brother Don Beebe, and survived by brothers Ray Beebe and Wilford Watts. He is also survived by his son Eric, his daughter-in-law Shannon, and their daughter-Tom's cherished granddaughter-Savanna Cooper. The cooper family has requested that, in leiu of flowers, contributions be made to either the Tom Beebe Memorial Fund for Undergraduate Research or the Tom Beebe Memorial Fund for Western Travel. Both funds will support present and future Berea College students in the endeavors that Tom himself loved best and that he devoted his lifešs energies to providing for others. At moments like this, we are all reminded of the very special and particular contributions each member of the Berea College community makes and of how much our community is diminished when a colleague dies. Our sympathies and prayers go out to Tom's family, whose loss is even greater.

Sincerely, Larry D. Shinn, President, Berea College

  • Thomas R. Beebe, Leslie Boyd*, Steve B. Fonkeng*, Jamie Horn*, Teresa M. Mooney*, Matt J. Saderholm*, and Mike V. Skidmore*. "Selective Oxidation of Alcohols Using the 1:1 Complex of N-Bromosuccinimide and Tetrabutylammonium Iodide." J. Org. Chem., 60, 6602-6603 (1995).
  • Chriss E. McDonald, Thomas R. Beebe, Mark Beard, Doug McMillen, Daniel Selski. "N-Iodosuccinimide Mediated Oxidative Cyclization of Mono-t-Butyldimethylsilylated Diols." Tetrahedron Letters, 30, 4791-4794 (1989).
  • T. R. Beebe, R. Adkins*, R. Baldridge*, V. Hensley*, D. McMillen*, D. Morris*, R. Noe*, F. W. Ng*, G. Powell*, C. Spielberger* and M. Stolte*. "Lactone Formation in the Oxidation of Diols with N-Iodosuccinimide and Silver Acetate." J. Org. Chem., 52, 5472 (1987).
  • T. R. Beebe, R. Baldridge*, M. Beard*, D. Cooke*, I. DeFays*, V. Hensley*, D. Hua*, J. C. Lao*, D. McMillen*, D. Morris*, R. Noe*, E. O'Bryan*, C. Spielberger*, M. Stolte* and J. Waller, Jr*. "Oxidative Decarboxylation of Alcohol Hemiacetals of alpha-Keto Carboxylic Acids with N-Iodosuccinimide." J. Org. Chem., 52, 3165-3166 (1987).
  • T.R. Beebe, V.L. Hensley, F.W. Ng, R.A. Noe, and D.J. Scott. "Light- Catalyzed and Silver Acetate Catalyzed Oxidation of Alcohols with N-Iodosuccinimide: Two Different Pathways." J. Am. Chem. Soc., 50, 3015-3016 (1985).
  • T.R. Beebe, R.L. Adkins, F.W. Ng, and J.A. Weems. "Two-Bond Cleavage in the Oxidation of Acyclic Tertiary 1,4-Diols with N-Iodosuccinimide." J. Org. Chem., 49, 3843-3845 (1984).
  • T.R. Beebe, R.L. Adkins, C.C. Bogardis, P.S. Champney, P. Reinking, J. Shadday, W.D. Weatherford III, M.W. Webb, S.W. Yates. J. Org. Chem, 48, 3126 (1983).
  • T.R. Beebe, R.L. Adkins, A.I. Belcher, T. Choy, A.E. Fuller, V.L. Morgan, B.B. Sencerey, L.J. Russell, S.W. Yates. J. Org. Chem, 47, 3006 (1982).
  • T.R. Beebe, P. Hii, P. Reinking. J. Org. Chem, 46, 1927 (1981).
  • T.R. Beebe, A.L. Lin, R.D. Miller. J. Org. Chem, 39, 722 (1974).
  • T.R. Beebe, M. Adkins, P. Kwok, R. Roehm. J. Org. Chem, 37, 4220 (1972).
  • T.R. Beebe, J.W. Wolfe. J. Org. Chem, 35, 2057 (1970).

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