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OSU professor to receive 2013 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence PDF  | Print |
Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:40
Dr. Richard Bunce

Dr. Richard Bunce

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has selected chemistry professor Dr. Richard A. Bunce from Oklahoma State University to receive an Oklahoma Medal for Excellence award, along with four other outstanding educators from Oklahoma’s public schools during ceremonies set for next month. 

The awards will be presented at the foundation’s 27th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 18 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Each of the five winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Jim Triffo of Oklahoma City.

Now in his 30th year at OSU, Bunce has established a national reputation as a leading organic chemist, recently earning a grant for the development of broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat drug-resistant anthrax. He brings his expertise and passion for chemistry to the classroom, where he teaches introductory chemistry for majors and non-majors as well as upper-level and graduate courses in organic chemistry.

As the undergraduate adviser for all chemistry students at OSU, Bunce has been credited with doubling the number of chemistry majors in the past 10 years. “Chemistry is considered a difficult subject by many students and is often frightening to entering students,” said colleague Barry K. Lavine. “With patience, kindness and availability … Richard is able to relate to undergraduates and interact with them in such a manner that an atmosphere of trust develops.” 

In the classroom, Bunce intersperses demonstrations and real-life examples to illustrate concepts. He sets clear expectations for success and offers strategies for studying. “Rich’s classes are outstanding in every way,” said former student Paul B. Jones, now on the chemistry faculty at Wake Forest University. “He is an exceptional lecturer, but also works hard to establish a rapport with the large number of students enrolled. … At the same time, he is demanding and leads his students to rise to his expected level of performance.”

Bunce is a pioneer in promoting research with undergraduates at OSU, and has involved more than 70 undergraduates in his research work, taking great care to familiarize them with advanced research techniques and instrument operation. He has published 55 peer-reviewed papers with undergraduate co-workers in addition to numerous papers with his graduate and postdoctoral students.  He has been recognized twice with the OSU College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Adviser Award, and was a 2011 OSU Regents Distinguished Teaching Award winner as well as a 2012 OSU Regents Distinguished Research Award winner. 

Other Medal for Excellence winners this year include: Dr. Jill Edwards Steeley, Central Elementary School, Coweta, elementary teaching; John Waldron, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, secondary teaching; Ruth Askew Brelsford, speech and theater professor and department chair and honors program coordinator, Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton, regional university/community college teaching, and Dr. Cathy Burden, superintendent of schools, Union Public Schools, Tulsa, elementary/secondary administration.

“We know that education is the best investment Oklahoma can make in its future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that Oklahomans deeply value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

In addition to presenting the Medal for Excellence awards, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will honor 100 of Oklahoma’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters at its May 18 banquet. The event will feature a keynote address by Thomas L. Friedman, three-time Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with admission priced at $50. The awards ceremony will be televised statewide by OETA, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, at 8 p.m. May 25. For more information, call the Foundation for Excellence office at (405) 236-0006 or visit its website at www.ofe.org.

Founded in 1985, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has provided more than $4 million in scholarships and cash awards to honor outstanding students and exceptional educators.