Anna Jane Harrison, Chemical Education Leader and First Woman President of the American Chemical Society, Dies at 85

Wednesday, August 12, 1998 - 12:00

For immediate release
12 August,1998
Please call Sarah Grolnic-McClurg at 413-538-2030

South Hadley, MA--Anna J. Harrison, a leader in the field of chemistry and Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Mount Holyoke College, died of a stroke on Saturday, August 8, in Holyoke Hospital, Holyoke, MA. Among her many accomplishments, she became, in 1978, the first woman president of the American Chemical Society.
Professor Harrison was born December 23, 1912 on a Missouri farm in Benton City, the daughter of Albert and Mary (Jones) Harrison. She attended a one-room rural school where she later taught for two years after her graduation from the University of Missouri in 1933. She went onto receive her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Missouri in 1940.

Her career in chemical education started in 1940 at Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane University. In 1945, she joined the faculty of Mount Holyoke College, where she remained until her retirement in 1979. She joined the Mount Holyoke faculty as assistant professor of chemistry, rising two years later to the associate level. In 1950 she became a full professor and served as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1960-66. She served as William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Chemistry from 1976-79. In addition to her positions with Tulane and Mount Holyoke, she was also associated with the University of Missouri and Corning Glass.

With her Mount Holyoke College colleague, Edwin Weaver, she wrote a textbook, Chemistry: A Search to Understand, (1989) that was intended to serve the needs of students whom she characterized as "intellectually curious but not professionally driven." The recipient of many awards and honors, she received a Chemical Education Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1982. Her awards include the Frank Forest Award of the American Ceramic Society, 1949; the Citation of Merit of the University of Missouri College of Arts and Sciences, 1960; the Manufacturing Chemists Association Award in College Chemistry Teaching, 1969; and the James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching of Chemistry, Northeastern Section, ACS, 1977.

She was active throughout her life in public service and in scientific societies. One of her chief professional interests was the impact of science on society, and a major goal of her work was providing information that voters and legislators could use to form effective judgments on scientific and technical issues. She served on the National Science Board from 1972 to 1978, as President of the American Chemical Society in 1978, and as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1983-1984 (its fourth woman president). A Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar from 1978 to 1980, Harrison served on National Research Council committees, the editorial advisory board for SCIENCE 81 magazine, and, from 1988-1991, the board of directors of Sigma Xi.

The recipient of 20 honorary degrees, she was voted at a recent Mount Holyoke reunion as "one of the people who has had the greatest impact on my life" by the class of 1968 of Mount Holyoke College.

Harrison is survived by a niece, MaryJo (Harrison) Freeman, of Louisville, KY, by a nephew, J. Albert Harrison, also of Louisville, and by four grandnieces and grandnephews. A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, August 11, at 3 pm in the small chapel at Abbey Chapel on the Mount Holyoke campus. Arrangements are being made by Ryder Funeral Home in South Hadley. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Anna Harrison Fund for Faculty Research at Mount Holyoke College. A memorial service at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. is also planned.
Anna J. Harrison