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* Professor Samuel Wait Jr. ’53 R
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Samuel Wait Jr. ’53
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Professor Samuel Wait Jr. ’53 Retires After 55 Years at Rensselaer

When Samuel Wait Jr. entered Rensselaer as a freshman in 1949, the campus was vastly different place. During this post-war period, the Houston Field House was just opening its doors and some of the first women were joining Wait and his classmates in the labs and lecture halls. The advanced facilities of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies were still nearly a half-century away, but Samuel Wait would be here for it all. After 55 years at the Institute, Associate Dean of the School of Science and Professor of Chemistry Samuel Wait Jr. ’53 retired on Dec. 31, 2009.

“Sam Wait has played a significant role in shaping our department of chemistry and the entire School of Science, making him an important part of the history of the Institute, as well as its future,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “He has been a mentor to hundreds of students and young members of the faculty, and he remains an outstanding chemist and campus leader. We wish him and his family all the best in retirement, and we will miss his presence in the School of Science.”

Wait graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer in 1953. He would go on to receive a master’s and a doctoral degree both in chemistry from the Institute in 1954 and 1955, respectively. Upon receiving his doctoral degree, Wait became a postdoctoral fellow under the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program at University College in London, England. He would go on to spend a year there as an assistant lecturer before spending several years teaching at both the University of Minnesota and the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He then spent a year as a research scientist in the National Bureau of Standards.

Wait returned to Rensselaer in 1961 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He quickly became an associate professor in 1964 and later a full professor in 1971. In addition to his teaching and research, he also served as a member of the academic leadership team within the Rensselaer School of Science as assistant dean of science from 1972 to 1974 and associate dean of science from 1974 to the present. He also served as acting dean of science on four separate occasions during times of leadership change in the school.

“One cannot think of the School of Science without thinking of Sam Wait. He has been the heart and soul of the school for many years,” said Acting Dean of Science David Spooner. “He is the person we all turn to for help in getting things done. He has a deep concern for everything and everyone and always willingly gives of his time, knowledge, and ability to help in every way that he can, within the School of Science and across the campus.”

He has received numerous honors at Rensselaer including the Outstanding Faculty Award in 1988, the Alumni Admissions Recognition of Excellence Award in 1993, the Alumni Key in 1994, the Demers Medal in 1997, and the Rensselaer Alumni Association (RAA) Fellows Award in 2003. In 2005, Wait was honored with the RAA Distinguished Service Award.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 1, January 22, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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