March 25, 2004
Wabash assistant professor of chemistry Lon Porter was an under-graduate creating new materials through organic chemistry at the University of Houston when he realized the life-enriching potential of strong student/professor bonds.
Chemistry professors Scott Fller (left) and Lon Porter were both recipients this year of grants awarded by the Dreyfus Foundation. Dean Mauri Ditzler comments: "To have two professors from the same college earning Dreyfus Awards in the same year is a very rare achievement."
"I was in the honors college there, which was like a small school in the middle of a larger university, so I really got used to walking in and chatting with professors, even if it wasn’t about a course," the first-year professor says. "Some people are afraid to use the word ‘friend’ when describing student/teacher relationships, but it was something close to that.
"When I got the job at Wabash, my wife and I moved to a house on Main Street in Crawfordsville—we wanted to be close so we could be part of the community, and we love it here," Porter says.
He’s embraced the chemistry department’s team-teaching approach, as well as the faculty’s commitment to mentoring.
"I’m team teaching with David Phillips and Rich Dallinger, two very sharp guys, and it’s been a pretty rapid evolution," Porter laughs.
"At a research university like Purdue, where I did my graduate work, teaching is not a priority; teaching is almost looked at as a distraction. If you were spending time making handouts as a new way of engaging students, you really weren’t rewarded, so I was looking forward to coming to a place where teaching comes first."
And he’s learned much from chemistry professors Phillips and Dallinger.
"Rich has shown me that there’s an art to a lecture," Porter says. "He ties everything together so at the end of that lecture, you can look at the chalkboard and see a picture that tells the whole story. That really stunned me the first couple times I saw it; there was a level of teaching that was amazing, and that’s what I’m working towards."