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Northwestern University

Chemistry Alumni Reunite

First reunion in 130 years draws 240 back to campus

More than 240 alumni, faculty, and current students gathered on campus Oct. 10-12 to attend a reunion of the Department of Chemistry — the first reunion since the founding of the department 130 years ago.

Lead organizer Michelle Obuhanich, the department’s assistant director, explained that the goal of the event was to engage alumni and foster their connections to the department. For alumni who had not visited campus in 50 years, the chance to meet with past peers and tour the campus was an opportunity to reconnect.

“They enjoyed being able to connect with new people, and to reconnect with former classmates and faculty,” Obuhanich said. “It was also a great opportunity for alumni to see the chemistry facilities and new buildings on campus.”

An opportunity to learn

The three-day event began in the Technological Institute with a poster session during which students were able to present their research to alumni. Attendees were also invited to listen to lectures by faculty members as well as invited speakers, including keynote lecturer Kenneth N. Raymond ’68, now a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

Chemistry Department Director of Finance and Administration Danny Fisher, who also helped to organize the event, noted that the reunion inspired many alumni to consider giving back to the University. The upward trajectory of the Department of Chemistry, he said, “improves the brand of their degree.” 

“Valuable ties with active alumni are a key element of that success, and the alumni in attendance expressed enthusiasm about giving back in many forms — mentorship, recruiting, career advice, etc.,” Fisher said.

A “spectacular” event

Obuhanich isn’t sure when the next reunion will take place, but is planning for another reunion in five to 10 years, with smaller events held in between.

Peter Stair, chairman of the Department of Chemistry, called the reunion a “spectacular, first-of-its-kind event.”  

“It was wonderful to visit with former students and their families. Some had not been to campus for 20-plus years, and much has changed over that time,” Stair said. “We hope this event can be a springboard for strengthening the ties between the department and our alumni.”

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