Dr. Harold M. Faigenbaum
October 29, 1996
By Dr. S. Wiberly
Dr. Harold M. Faigenbaum, Emeritus Professor of Inorganic
Chemistry, died Tuesday September 24 at his residence at age 94. He was educated in Troy Public Schools
and graduate in the RPI Class of 1923 where he received his bachelor’s degree
with honors in Chemical Engineering. He
was awarded a Russell Sage Fellowship for graduate work, receiving the PhD in
chemistry in 1926. That year he became
an instructor in the chemistry department and soon after lecturer in charge of
the entire general chemistry course.
“Mr. Freshman Chemistry”, as Harold Faigenbaum came to be known, was
well remembered for his ability to give life to every lecture with is great
stories and anecdotes. This keen sense
of humor tempered the strict disciplinarian and made him human to his
students. One of his memorable
experiments was the demonstration of a hydrogen-oxygen explosion which always
ended his lecture on the properties of hydrogen. Almost immediately after a great boom, there
would be a rush of freshmen out of lecture room 303 in the old Walker
He also taught the basic graduate course in inorganic
chemistry and supervised the graduate research of a progression of graduate
students. In addition, he served as
associate chairman of the Department of Chemistry for 19 years. He retired as emeritus professor of inorganic
chemistry in July 1967.
He was active in the American Chemical Society and served as
section councilor and Chairman of the Eastern New York Section. He was chief chemist of the New York State
Biological Survey during summers and was a pioneer in the Development of Advanced
Placement Programs for the College Entrance Examination Board.
Faigenbaum served as president of Congregation Berith
Sholom, Third Street,
and was active on the national level in the Reformed Jewish Movement and was
one of a select group of Jewish leaders that had the opportunity to meet with
President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
I knew Harold as a teacher, colleague and close friend. His son, Mark, completed his PhD degree under
my supervision. Harold was a stimulating
teacher and was very highly thought of by his students, alumni and fellow
associates. He was awarded Rensselaer’s Distinguished Service Award, the most
prestigious award given by the college.
This highly esteemed Rensselaer
teacher has been honored through the generosity of Betty and Howard Isermann
’42 who challenged the many alumni touched by Dr. Faigenbaum’s teaching to
create the Harold M. Faigenbaum ’23 Chemical Science and Technology Suite in
the newly renovated Walker Laboratory.
At the recent rededication of Walker Laboratory and this suite, the
program lists the names of some 2,100 individuals who made gifts in memory of
“Mr. Freshman Chemistry”, Dr. Faigenbaum.
Truly this was a fitting memorial to a wonderful professor,