In Memoriam: Burnaby Munson

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From University of Delaware In honor of Dr. Munson and the contributions he made to UD. Be part of honoring the legacy of Burnaby Munson, beloved professor of chemistry since 1967 and former director of the Honors Program.

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In Memoriam of Burnaby Munson, beloved professor of chemistry since 1967 and former director of the Honors Program. Dr. Munson is best known for his role in creating and building the Honors Program and the efforts he made to build close relationships with UD students through study breaks and support of residential peer mentors now known as "Munson Fellows" (formerly Dickinson and Russell Fellows). Countless current and former students, faculty and staff members have been impacted by Dr. Munson's dedicated service to the University over the last 50 years.

Dr. Munson's Legacy

Burnaby Munson, retired University of Delaware chemistry professor, award-winning researcher and venerated director of the Honors Program who taught tens of thousands of UD students over more than 50 years, passed away June 23. He was 86.

An analytical and physical chemist, Dr. Munson’s research focused on mass spectrometry, a field where he had an important impact and for which he received numerous awards. His research was cited by the Nobel committee when it awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize to John Fenn and Koichi Tanaka. Dr. Munson’s work on chemical ionization mass spectrometry made it possible to obtain informative mass spectra of high-molecular weight and sensitive compounds.

At the University, he taught in the Honors Program from 1976 until his retirement in 2017 and also served on its advisory board in the 1970s and ’80s. He was the program’s acting director and then director for many years in the 1980s. He also initiated Wednesday Night Study Breaks in the Honors Living Learning Community. Upper-division students who live in first-year Honors housing and serve as mentors assisting with academic and social questions and problems are known as Munson Fellows in his honor.

Upon his retirement, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry held a special colloquium paying tribute to Dr. Munson. Writing in the Blue Hen Chemist newsletter, colleague Cecil Dybowski, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Dr. Munson “leaves behind a legacy of educational excellence and a cadre of students, both undergraduate and graduate, who have, through coaxing, cajoling, threatening and patience, developed an appreciation for chemistry and its place in the world.”

In 2018, Dr. Munson was named a fellow of the American Chemical Society, an honor that recognizes outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and the society.

His University recognitions also include the Excellence-in-Teaching Award in 1973, the Medal of Distinction in 2002, the Francis Alison Faculty Award in 1992 and Outstanding Faculty Member in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1994, among others.

Munson earned his doctorate in physical chemistry in 1959 from the University of Texas at Austin, after also studying at the University of Wisconsin. He worked for Esso (now Exxon) Research and Engineering as a research chemist until joining UD’s chemistry department in 1967.

Dr. Munson generously established an endowed fund to support the efforts of the UD Honors Program. As a special way to remember and honor Dr. Munson, the University community is invited to make a gift to the following fund:

Donald Harward and Burnaby Munson Fund for Honors Undergraduate Research

The income from this endowed fund will provide stipends to Honors students pursuing an Honors Degree with Distinction to remain on campus and focus on senior thesis research during winter session of the senior year.

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