The Wofford College chemistry department’s new lab for research honors someone who’s given countless hours to hundreds of students—Dr. Charlie Bass, the college’s Dr. and Mrs. Larry Hearn McCalla Professor of Chemistry.
“If you’re a physician, dentist or pharmacist and you went to Wofford since the early 90s, you had him,” says Dr. Steven Richards ’08, a Spartanburg dentist.
Richards spearheaded a fundraising campaign to honor Bass by naming the advanced chemistry lab after him. More than 30 Wofford alumni contributed.
“I didn’t receive a single ‘no’ response,” says Richards, who credits Bass for his approach to teaching organic chemistry and how it prepared students for careers in medicine. “That is a huge tribute to Dr. Bass.”
The campus community, including members of the college’s Board of Trustees, held a dedication ceremony for the new lab on May 6.
“We often talk about the Wofford experience and its impact on the students,” says Dr. Nayef Samhat, Wofford’s president. “That experience begins with people like Charlie, who for 34 years has dedicated his life to teaching, mentoring and working every day to ensure that our students have every opportunity to succeed.”
The lab will accommodate research projects that carry over outside of traditional lab hours.
“Chemistry research, and I suspect research in the other disciplines on campus, simply does not fit nicely into a typical three-hour lab period,” says Bass, who will retire at the end of the spring semester. “In the past, attempts at research simply meant that experiments taking many hours were not possible as there was no dedicated space for such activities. Too much time was wasted by having to constantly set up and take down experiments so that regular lab classes could be prepared, taught, broken down and put away.”
More time focused on research excites Dr. Jameica Hill ’88, professor and chair of the chemistry department.
“Our students will benefit tremendously from having a state-of-the-art chemistry research lab within the department,” Hill says. “The experiences they will gain working on projects with faculty mentors are numerous, including a gradual transition toward independent research and confidence in their scientific abilities. But the most important benefit to undergraduate research is learning. Learning chemistry by doing chemistry in a non-classroom setting will help prepare our students to be better chemists and lends itself to students developing that excitement for discovery.”
Among his many honors, Bass received the Roger Milliken Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Science at Wofford in 2006. He was included in the Princeton Review’s book “The Best 300 Professors” in 2012. In 2013, he was one of 10 faculty recognized nationally with a Kappa Alpha Theta Outstanding Faculty Award. He also has been recognized numerous times as the Faculty Member of the Year by the Panhellenic Council at Wofford and by the Campus Union.
Bass is honored by the latest recognition.
“Wofford has been blessed with many incredibly bright students who are simply awesome humans,” he says. “I think they would be surprised to know how often I think about them and how much they are missed. They are the reason I have been here so long. I have been lucky enough to hear from and see some long after they graduated. They have made Wofford truly feel like family for me.”
The campaign to name the lab after him came as a surprise, Bass says.
“I am grateful and I know my department is as well,” he says. “My only regret is that my poor colleagues will have to see that name on the lab for quite some time.”
Richards has high hopes for future chemistry students who’ll inquire about Bass.
“I know that future students will get fantastic learning experiences in this lab, and I hope they
will ask the faculty ‘Who was Dr. Bass?’” Richards says. “The real lesson will come from those answers.”