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Award For Volunteer Service To The American Chemical Society

by Linda Wang
January 27, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 4

Credit: Susan Fleck
This is a photo of Robert A. Pribush.
Credit: Susan Fleck

Sponsored by ACS

Growing up in Elizabeth, N.J., Robert A. Pribush was surrounded by the chemical industry. Right outside his bedroom window he could see steam billowing steadily from what was then the Esso Refinery. It fascinated him to imagine what was happening inside the plant, and by the time Pribush was in high school, he knew that he wanted to become a chemist.

He became the first in his family to earn a college degree, and he didn’t stop there. Today, Pribush, 67, is a professor of chemistry at Butler University, in Indianapolis.

Pribush says he owes much of his success to the early mentorship he received. In college, one of his professors always called him “doctor.” “Very clearly, he was trying to tell me that I could go beyond the bachelor’s degree, and it made me appreciate the role of a mentor,” Pribush says.

Volunteering is Pribush’s way of giving back. “Not only is there the intrinsic satisfaction of helping others, but you get to network with people who have similar interests and people who then can open new worlds for you,” he says. “To me, that’s what ACS provides. It provides access to all kinds of chemists.”

Pribush’s involvement in ACS began in 1972, when he joined the then-called Younger Chemists Task Force. In 1978, he became the second chair of the newly formed Younger Chemists Committee. Over the years, Pribush has continued to serve ACS, including as councilor for the Indiana Section, program chair of the Central Regional Meeting, and Indiana Section organizer for the National Chemistry Olympiad. He played a significant role in helping organize the fall 2013 ACS national meeting in Indianapolis.

Pribush has also been involved with the ACS Division of Chemical Education Examinations Institute, serving as chair of the Diagnostic of Undergraduate Chemistry Knowledge Committee, the Inorganic Chemistry Exam Committee, and the General Chemistry Exam Committee.

Pribush “provides imagination that brings new, big ideas to an event and programmatic discussion. He cooperates fully with others and is never short in his personal commitment, and he takes responsibility for his part, completing tasks in reliable and creative ways,” says David J. Malik, a chemistry professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has served as a councilor and vice chair for the ACS Society Committee on Education. “These are the qualities that make one’s volunteerism substantive and memorable.”

Pribush’s interests don’t stop at chemistry. For more than 20 years, he has chaired a regional science olympiad for middle school and high school students. And in 2008, he was part of a Butler University project to build a primary school in Uganda. He also enjoys photography, traveling abroad, gardening, collecting stamps, and cheering on his favorite sports teams.

Pribush earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Delaware in 1968 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1972. He completed a postdoc at the University of Southern California in 1974.

Pribush will deliver a keynote lecture during the ChemLuminary Awards program at the fall ACS national meeting in San Francisco.


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