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By Greta Petry (May 16, 2007)

Lawrence Daly Celebrates 50 Years of Teaching Chemistry at UAlbany

Lawrence Daly
Lawrence Daly

Lawrence Daly went to school in a one-room schoolhouse near Hudson Falls, N.Y., where there was one teacher for all grades. He liked science.

"Way back in grade school, I was always interested in chemistry," said Daly, an associate professor. That interest evolved into a lifelong commitment to the University at Albany, from which he is retiring June 13 after teaching chemistry to undergraduates for 50 years. A reception in his honor was scheduled to be held May 17 from 6 to 7 p.m., with dinner to follow, at the Albany Country Club.

Daly, who has been associate chair of the Department of Chemistry for a decade, has, until the past five or six years, taught or advised in some capacity nearly every student who has taken chemistry at the University, according to Department of Chemistry Chair John Welch.

"He is a terrific colleague, never self-serving, and always puts the students and the department first," Welch said. "The University archivist has determined that Larry has the longest continuous period of service to the University of any faculty member. Only Albert N. Husted, 1855 graduate of the State Normal School and namesake of Husted Hall, had a longer overall period of service to the University, and then only if the interruption in his career to serve in the Civil War is considered," Welch said.

Even with a reduced teaching load in the last year or two, Daly still puts in 40 hours a week at the University. And Welch remembers seeing him on Saturdays and Sundays on a regular basis before that.

At the time when Daly decided to attend the University at Albany, it was known as the New York State College for Teachers. No one in his family had ever been to college until his older sister enrolled and became a teacher. Daly followed suit, earning a Bachelor of Arts in science in 1952 (there was no Bachelor of Science at UAlbany at that time, he recalled) and a Master of Arts in chemistry in 1953. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1957.

Daly was hired at UAlbany with several other fresh-faced young professors with newly-minted Ph.D.s to lend stability to a department that had experienced some turmoil. There was no uptown campus at the time. Fifty years later, he is still a mainstay in the department, serving the University by providing information about required courses at open houses and information sessions, and by letting students know the rules and regulations so they can graduate.

In 1975 he was co-author of the book Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy, and his research expertise is in analytical spectroscopy. But his heart was always in teaching.

"I've always liked teaching as opposed to research," Daly said, who had eye surgery to correct a detached retina on April 25 and returned to the classroom and the lab just five days later. He had already gained tenure before the Teachers College became a University center, with a new focus on research, and he decided to stay.

When he was hired, the job of the department was to train chemistry teachers for high schools. That undergraduate program has not existed for a decade. Today, UAlbany chemistry graduates are more likely to take jobs with companies like Albany Molecular, although a master's degree program in teaching exists.

A man of few words, Daly is known for setting high standards.

"I expect a reasonable performance of my students," he said. In his classic understated way, he said he doesn't think any of his students would accuse him of letting them off easy.

When he is not teaching chemistry, Daly enjoys reading history and mysteries for relaxation. His favorite mystery writers are Anne Perry and Sue Grafton. "I do get into the scientific aspects" of the plots, he said, but he's not big on television and has never watched CSI.

Once he retires, Daly will have more time to read. He's also pretty handy, having done carpentry, plumbing and electrical work around the house.

In retirement "I look forward to not having to do all the running around I do," he said. He isn't that big on traveling. "I'm always happy to get home," he said. He and his wife drive to Maine to visit their daughter several times a year.

And he will have more time to spend with his two grandsons, who are both about to turn 4. He and his wife also have two sons.


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