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Paul Walter Wins Parsons Award

by Linda Wang
June 23, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 25

Credit: Grace Walter
Photo of Paul Walter.
Credit: Grace Walter

Relatively few people have served in as many volunteer roles for the American Chemical Society as Paul H. L. Walter, who earlier this month was named the recipient of the 2015 Charles Lathrop Parsons Award by the ACS Board of Directors.

The award recognizes outstanding public service by a member of the society, and it was created in 1952 to honor the executive secretary who helped create today’s ACS. Walter, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and a 2013 ACS Fellow, will be honored at the 2015 spring ACS national meeting in Denver.

Walter says he was “utterly flabbergasted” when he received the news about winning the award. “I had no knowledge that I was even being considered for the award,” he says. “It’s a great honor.”

Colleagues say that Walter couldn’t be more deserving. “Having held almost all of the high posts available to a volunteer, including ACS president, chairman of the board, and chair of such core operations as [the Committee on] Budget & Finance, Paul has done about all that one person could do for this leading scientific organization,” says Daryle H. Busch, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Kansas, who served in ACS governance roles with Walter and is also an ACS past-president and former board chairman.

Walter joined ACS in 1955 and got involved in the Eastern New York Section, first on its education committee, then as a councilor from 1977 to 1990. Later, he became involved at the national level, serving on numerous committees, including the Committee on Budget & Finance, Society Committee on Education, Governing Board for Publishing, Committee on Meetings & Expositions, Committee on Chemical Abstracts Service, Committee on Grants & Awards, Committee on Pensions & Investments, and the Committee on International Activities.

Walter served on the ACS Board of Directors from 1991 to 1999, first as a director-at-large and then as a member of the presidential succession. He was ACS president in 1998 and before that served as chair of the board from 1993 to 1995.

Walter has been a proponent of greater participation by underrepresented minorities in ACS. His efforts, and those of others, contributed to the creation of minority programs within ACS, including the ACS Scholars Program and the Committee on Minority Affairs. He also encouraged greater participation in international activities, playing a key role in the formation of the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies (Pacifichem) and the Malta Conference.

In addition, “the breadth of Paul’s civic, political, and religious involvement in each and every community in which he has lived provides strong evidence of his desire to contribute in a meaningful way to society,” says retired Monsanto chemist S. Allen Heininger, who has served on ACS governance with Walter.

Walter earned an S.B. in chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 and a Ph.D. in chemistry, with a minor in physics, from the University of Kansas in 1960. After graduating, he joined DuPont in Wilmington, Del., as a research scientist from 1960 to 1967. He joined Skidmore in 1967 and served as chair of the chemistry department from 1975 to 1985. He retired in 1996.

“ACS gave me the opportunity to multiply anything I might want to do into something much, much bigger,” Walter says. Reflecting back on his lifetime of service, he only wishes he could have done even more.

Linda Wang compiles this section. Announcements of awards may be sent to


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