HISTORY OF THE NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF CHEMISTS
A Division of the American Institute of Chemists
By Dr. Richard Macnair, FAIC
The Institute was most likely formed as a local chapter in Boston and later became a state institute. The state institute was called the Massachusetts Institute of Chemists (MAIC), a Division of the American Institute of Chemists (AIC), with its own constitution and bylaws. The date of formation and/or organization was sometime in the 1950's or 1960's. The date is uncertain because there was no historian in the local or national organizations. In the 1970's it became increasingly clear that the MAIC was serving an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. Thus, in the early 1980's the MAIC was formally renamed the New England Institute of Chemists (NEIC).
The MAIC Council, consisting of the officers and committee chairs, met for many of the early years in Cambridge, MA, often at Arthur D. Little, Inc., since some of the officers were employed there. Occasionally, Council meetings were held in Natick, MA, at the then called US Army Natick Laboratories. In the 1980's the meetings were moved to the Boston College campus and remained there until 2006. At that time the meeting site was changed to the Brandeis University campus. Award dinners were held at Arthur D. Little in the early years, then at Boston College and recently at Brandeis University.
In 1975 the MAIC hosted the national meeting of the AIC in Boston. Among the notable speakers and panelists were Linus Pauling and Hazel Bishop. In 1989 and 1990 the Institute held symposia in conjunction with the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. The 1989 symposium was held in Lowell, MA. In 1990, the symposium was held in Newport, RI, and called Newport Revisited 100 Years Later to commemorate the first meeting of the American Chemical Society 100 years before. In 2002, members of the NEIC participated in the National Conference of the AIC which was held in Boston and titled "The Future of Chemistry." Members presented papers and the NEIC Council obtained the banquet speaker, Astronaut and Northeastern University Professor Al Sacco.
Some of the chemists serving as president of the MAIC and NEIC in the past 30 plus years were S. David Bailey(1975), Richard N. Macnair (79/80 and 91/92), Martha Thomas (81/82), Earnest Becker (83/84), Alexander Cruickshank (85/86), William Sullivan (87/88), George R. Thomas (89/90), Timothy Rose (93/94), Michael Sennett (95/96), Nancy Scoville (97/98), Kenneth Brody (99/00), Elinor O'Brien (01/02), Carol LeBlanc (03/04), Lois Robblee (05/06), Ralph Buonopane (07/08), Lisa Zuccarelli (09/11) and Christine Thomas (12/14). Those members serving as president before 1980 are out of memory range or record holding at this time with the exception of S. David Bailey who was president at the time of the 1975 national meeting. He most likely served as president in 1974 as well when the national meeting was being planned for Boston.
Remarkably, the MAIC / NEIC has been served for most of its years by only two treasurers, Jerry Jasinski and Richard Brown. In the years through and beyond the 1970's dues were sufficient to cover all activities costs including awards dinners. As costs increased and income did not, it was necessary to begin charging a nominal fee for the dinners. To keep the dinner fee at a nominal level, in the1990's corporate or foundation sponsors were obtained, and with these changes the treasury has operated continuously in the black.
The MAIC / NEIC has been blessed also with long-serving secretaries including William Sullivan in the late 1970's and early 1980's, Elinor O'Brien in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Timothy Rose since the late 1990's to 2013, and Anthony Fernandez currently.
The NEIC has provided leadership at the national level. NEIC Treasurer Jerry Jasinski served two terms as AIC Director, 1999-2002 and 2007-2009, and as president of the AIC until 2011. S. David Bailey in the 1970's and Martha Thomas in the 1980's also served as AIC Directors.
The major activity of the MAIC / NEIC since its organization has been to promote the Student Awards Program of the AIC in Massachusetts and New England. The practice of holding an awards dinner to honor students by presenting them with certificates of recognition from the AIC has been a mainstay of the organization. The MAIC / NEIC is one of the very few AIC Institutes to hold awards dinners consistently over the past five decades. The AIC provides the certificates. In 2013, 48 AIC Student Award Certificates were presented to students from colleges and universities in New England, and 30 students attended the annual awards dinner with their mentors and family members.
An important part of the student awards dinner program were "Round Table Discussions" held to allow students to ask questions of representatives from academia, government and industry about career opportunities in those areas. These discussions were held prior to the dinner and award presentations, and were held consistently into the 1990's. At that time they were discontinued in favor of a social hour to provide time for awardees and mentors from different schools to get together to exchange experiences. However, this mingling and exchange did not seem to happen automatically and was impossible to structure so in 2009 the round table discussions were resumed.
For a few years in the mid 1990's the Institute participated in and NSF sponsored outreach program to help introduce inner city high school students to various topics in chemistry. This program was held at Northeastern University and appeared to be well received by participating students but was discontinued due to lack of funding.
In the years up to the early 1980's the MAIC often honored a prominent chemist in addition to the students. The recipient gave a presentation to the students and was presented with a fancy scroll with hand calligraphy that was normally drawn by a firm in New York City. The award was called the "Honor Scroll". Recipients of this award in the late 1970's and early 1980's included Martha Thomas, Henry Hill, William Sullivan, Alexander Cruickshank, and George Thomas. The practice was abandoned in the late 1980's but resumed in 2000 as the Distinguished Chemist Award. Recipients of the latter award are Samuel H. Liggero (2014), Angela M. Belcher (2013), Richard S. Herrick (2012), Dorothy J. Phillips (2011), Al Sacco, Jr. (2010), Robert S. Langer (2009),Jay Chapin (2008), Ronald Latanision (2007), Joseph C. Hogan (2006), Horace Martin (2005), Carl M. Selavka (2004), Elinor O'Brien (2003), John C. Warner (2002), Ralph Buonopane (2001), Michael Strem (2000).
In addition to the above awards, a program was established in 1994 to honor outstanding secondary school chemistry teachers. The first and only recipient in that year was from MA, Kenneth Brody. The next year it was expanded to two recipients, one each from MA and RI. In 1996 teachers from MA, RI, CT and ME were honored. Since then the program has honored chemistry teachers from all six New England states whenever possible. See list elsewhere on this website.
In 2001 the NEIC Council began designing a logo for the Institute. Dr. Carole LeBlanc and Dr. Timothy Rose worked on several iterations of an original design by Dr. Jerry Jasinski. The final version was adopted in the fall of 2004 and added to the letterhead in 2005. About the same time as the logo was being designed, Mr. Kenneth Brody had a 4' x 6' banner made displaying the NEIC name in gold letters on a green background, but without the logo. It was first used at the 2004 Awards Dinner. In addition to highlighting the area where the evening's activities take place, the banner makes an excellent background for photographs of awardees.
After the 2004 banquet the Council decided it would be wise and necessary to embrace the 21st century by developing a website. In 2005 Dr. LeBlanc registered the domain name, neichemists.org, and established the first basic website. The Council hired Mrs. David Lewis in 2006 to redesign and expand its content. After several iterations it was published in January 2008 with Yahoo as the host. In 2009 the host was changed to Network Solutions to allow easier modification of the content. The website contains announcements of the annual NEIC Awards Dinner and other events, the names of the secondary school and Distinguished Chemist awardees, the corporate sponsors, and other pertinent information.
During 2010 and 2011 the NEIC Council began to formulate ideas for a brochure to aid in promoting the Institute and showcasing it’s activities. The result was a tri-fold sheet printed on both sides containing current officers, student awards, distinguished chemist award, secondary school teacher awards and past and current sponsors. The first issue was prepared in 2011 and had pictures of awardees. In 2012 an updated and more professional brochure which included the 2012 awardees and officers was distributed at the annual Awards Dinner. The plan is to continue it as an annual publication with current information.