The James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry pays tribute to outstanding contributions to the field of chemical education. The Award consists of a $3,000 prize and a certificate. The presentation takes place at an Award Ceremony and dinner in November, followed by a formal address by the Awardee.
The Award, the first national award for outstanding achievement in the teaching of chemistry, was established in 1950 by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society to honor the memory of James Flack Norris, Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a teacher of great repute. For more information, please see the Brief History of the Norris Award.
The first award was made in 1951 to Professor George Shannon Forbes, an outstanding teacher at Harvard and, in retirement, at Northeastern University. Past awardees are given in the list of Norris Award recipients.
Applications are accepted throughout the year and can be sent by email. The deadline for each year’s award is April 15 with the current year recipient being chosen in May. Please note that applications are valid for 3 years and can be refreshed at any time.
To coordinate applications and select the Norris Award winner. The Norris Award is given for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry. The Norris Award is one of the oldest national awards of the American Chemical Society. The recipient is selected from nominees who have served with special distinction as teachers of chemistry at any level and whose efforts have had a wide-ranging effect on chemical education. We strive to select recipients (individuals or groups) who have truly changed, or greatly improved, the paradigm or effectiveness of chemistry education.
For those interested in helping with this award, please see the chair of the committee. There are seven members of the Norris Award Committee. Four members of the committee are elected from the local section, but for those who express an interest, there could be other roles you could help with. Please contact the Chair of the committee, if interested.
The 2023 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry
Deadline: April 14, 2023
Nominations are invited for the 2023 James Flack Norris Award, which consists of a certificate and an honorarium of $3,000 and is given annually by the Northeastern Section (NESACS). The presentation will take place at a ceremony and dinner in November 2023 and will include a formal address by the awardee.
The Award was established in 1950 by NESACS to honor the memory of James Flack Norris (1871-1940), a professor of chemistry at Simmons College and M.I.T., chair of NESACS in 1904, and ACS President in 1925-26.
Individuals or teams of individuals may be nominated. Nominee(s) should have served with special distinction as teachers of chemistry at any level: secondary school, college, and/or graduate school. With the presentation of the first Award in 1951, awardees have included many eminent teachers at all levels whose efforts have had a wide-ranging effect on chemical education. The recipient will be selected from an international list of nominees who have served with special distinction as teachers of chemistry with significant achievements.
A nomination in the form of a letter should focus on the candidate or candidates’ contributions to and effectiveness in teaching chemistry. Curriculum vitae should be included and, where appropriate, a list of honors, awards, and publications related to chemical education. Seconding letters may also be included; these should show the impact of the nominee or nominees’ teaching for inspiring colleagues and students toward an active life in the chemical sciences, and attest to the influence of the individual or team’s other activities in chemical education, such as textbooks, journal articles, or other professional activity at the local, national, and international level.
The nomination materials should consist of the primary nomination letter, supporting letters, and curriculum vitae. Reprints or other publications should NOT be included. The material should not exceed thirty (30) pages [if individual] and should be submitted electronically in Adobe PDF format through April 14, 2023 to Ms. Anna Singer, NESACS Administrative Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Award including a list of past award recipients, see http://www.nesacs.org/awards_norris.html.
Questions about the Award or the nomination process should be directed to the Chair of the Norris Award Committee, Dr. Christine Caputo, email@example.com
History of the Award
The Norris Award is one of the oldest national awards of the American Chemical Society and is presented annually by the Northeastern Section. The recipient is selected from an international list of nominees who have served with special distinction as teachers of chemistry at any level and whose efforts have had a wide-ranging effect on chemical education. The award has been given for a wide variety of achievements: for outstandingly effective textbooks, lecture demonstrations, or laboratory experiments, for editing the Journal of Chemical Education, for developing the Chemical Educational Material Study Project, or for new ways to teach laboratory courses in chemistry. Always, and this is of the utmost importance, the specific achievement must be coupled with dedicated teaching of chemistry at the graduate, undergraduate, or high school level. The award consists of a certificate and an honorarium.
When the will of Anne C. Norris (d. 1948) was read, the Northeastern Section was informed that it was a beneficiary, with an outright gift of $10,000 and the sharing of the residue of her estate in equal parts with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The will stated, “It is my wish that the Directors of said Society shall use the money in any way they may see fit to perpetuate the memory of my said husband James F. Norris.” Professor Norris had died in August, 1940, and the desire had not been satisfied for a way to honor the man who had made such a mark as teacher, confidential counselor, research scientist and personal friend during his years of teaching and research at Simmons College and MIT. His widow’s bequest in 1948 provided the impetus.
A committee under the leadership of Gustavus J. Esselen, the Section’s senior adviser, was set up to explore how best to use the money. The expectation was that the income from the bequest would amount to over a thousand dollars a year, a tidy sum, and in the April 1949 NUCLEUS Esselen requested suggestions from the Section’s members. By June he had received twelve proposals and his committee consisting of Chester M. Alter (Boston University), Theodore C. Browne (Dewey and Almy), Ernest C. Crocker (ADL), Kenneth L. Mark (Simmons), Avery A. Morton (MIT) and John O. Percival (Monsanto) worked on the problem for the rest of the year. The decision was announced in January, 1950. The statement read “The James Flack Norris Award shall be made for outstanding achievement in the teaching of chemistry, particularly when demonstrated at college or secondary school levels rather than shown in research.” This approach to memorialize Norris recognized the emphasis he placed on teaching, and the Committee’s fear that another award for outstanding research would be lost in the crowd.
The announcement which appeared in the NUCLEUS for January, 1950 read:
“The first national award for outstanding achievement in the teaching of chemistry is announced by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, Inc. in memory of the late James F. Norris. Teachers from schools, colleges and universities will be eligible. This is in accordance with the wishes of the late Anne C. Norris of Cambridge who left the Northeastern Section a bequest of $10,000 plus half of the residue of the estate, to be used to perpetuate the memory of her husband James F. Norris.
Believing in the importance of excellence in teaching as a contributing factor in the progress of chemistry, the Board of Directors of the Northeastern Section have selected this form of award as a memorial to Professor Norris, himself a teacher of great repute. The award will consist of a suitably inscribed certificate and a sum of money, and will ordinarily be given biennially, in the years when the Richards Medal for achievement in research is not awarded by the Northeastern Section.
Professor Norris was a student of Ira Remsen, one of chemistry’s greatest teachers. (Norris) gained his outstanding reputation as a chemistry teacher at Harvard and Clarke (sic) Universities, as Professor at Vanderbilt University and Simmons College; and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he became Director of the Research Laboratory of Organic Chemistry. He was Chairman of the Northeastern Section, was twice President of the American Chemical Society and served on its Board of Directors for eleven years.”
The early recipients were chosen by a secret committee, again led by Esselen, who remained active in promoting the memory of Norris for the next couple of years until his death in October, 1952. Open election of the Norris Award Committee did not begin until 1954, when it was realized also that the capital funds were adequate to give the award annually, instead of biennially. The first presentation was made on May 10, 1951 at the Harvard Club to George Shannon Forbes (an old friend of Norris), an outstanding teacher at both Harvard and, in retirement, at Northeastern University.
 The first paragraph of this account is from the Program for the James Flack Norris Award of 2002, section: “The Award.’ The remaining paragraphs are from an article by Myron S. Simon in The NUCLEUS, 2002 LXXXI (3),4.
About Prof. Norris
James Flack Norris was born in 1871 in Baltimore. He was the fifth of nine children and attended schools in that city and in Washington, D.C. His collegiate career started at Johns Hopkins University, from which he graduated with an A.B. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1892. He was strongly attracted by the great Ira Remsen and consequently decided to carry out his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins where he investigated complex compounds of selenium and tellurium. In 1895 he obtained his Ph.D. After graduation, Professor Norris served in the Chemistry Department of M.I.T. In 1904 he moved to the newly founded Simmons College to become its first Professor of Chemistry and to head its School of Science. He remained at Simmons until 1915 except for 1910-11 when, feeling the need for more physical chemistry, he spent a sabbatical with Fritz Haber at Karlsruhe. After one year at Vanderbilt University, Norris returned to M.I.T. where he remained for the next 24 years as an enthusiastic and successful teacher of chemistry. On February 4, 1902 he was married in Washington, D.C. to Anne Bent Chamberlin, daughter of an Army Captain. They had no children. Professor Norris died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 4, 1940.
In 1916 Norris was a member of the Naval Consulting Board and during World War I he served as a Lt. Colonel in the Chemical Warfare Service. After the war, he served for ten years as vice chairman and chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the National Research Council.
Although serious when the occasion called for it, the debonair Norris was known as ” Sunny Jim” to a host of friends who found him a jovial companion.
His activities in the ACS were many: Chairman of the Northeastern Section in 1904 and President of the National Society in 1925 and 1926. As President of the Society, he did much to improve and clarify the finances of the society. He was also active in the National Research Council and in IUPAC, serving as vice president of the latter from 1925-28. He was an honorary member of the Rumanian Chemical Society and of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in Great Britain. In 1937, he received the gold medal of the American Institute of Chemists for “outstanding service as a teacher and as an investigator.” Norris was one of the first chemists to study the structure-reactivity relationship of organic compounds on a systematic basis. Between 1912 and 1922 he authored four influential textbooks in inorganic and organic chemistry. The income from those texts, at least in part, formed the foundation of the bequest from Mrs. Norris to the Northeastern Section in 1948. The purpose of this bequest, to quote the will of Mrs. Norris, is “to keep green the memory of James Flack Norris.
The Norris Fund has grown over the years with judicious management by the Trustees of the Northeastern Section. From its income the Section sponsors two James Flack Norris Awards: the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, administered by the National ACS, and the James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry.
Link to National Academy of Sciences biographical memoir on Dr. Norris.
Prof. Stacey Lowery Bretz
The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society is pleased to announce that Prof. Stacey Lowery Bretz is the winner of the 2022 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry.
Stacey Lowery Bretz, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
- Topic: “Meaningful Learning, Mindset, and Multiple Representations: Making Measurements in Chemistry Education”
- Link for Press Release
Paris Svoronos, Professor of Chemistry, Queensborough Community College Bayside, Queens NY, NY
- Topic: “From GED to Ph.D. or M.D.: How a Community College Student Can Achieve this Goal”
- Link for Bio, and also of the meeting presentation.
Neil Garg, Kenneth N. Trueblood Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
- Topic: “How Organic Chemistry Became One of UCLA’s Most Popular Classes”
Gerard Parkin, Professor of Chemistry, Columbia University, NY, NY
Marcy H. Towns, Professor, Chemical Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Thomas A. Holme, Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Frank J. Creegan, W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry, Washington College, Chestertown, MD
Richard S. Moog, Professor of Chemistry, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
James N. Spencer, William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Chemistry, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
For their leadership of the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) method that is widely used in a wide range of disciplines in high schools, colleges, and universities across the country. More info here.
Thomas Greenbowe, Morrill Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Melanie M. Cooper, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Vicente Talanquer, University Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
- Link for Bio
Peter Mahaffy, Professor of Chemistry, The King’s University, Edmonton, AB
- Link for Bio
George M. Bodner, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Education and Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
William F. Polik, Edward and Elizabeth Hofma Professor of Chemistry at Hope College, Holland, MI
- Link for Bio
David K. Gosser, Jr., Professor of Chemistry, City College of New York, New York, NY
Jack A. Kampmeier, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Link for In Memoriam)
Pratihba Varma-Nelson, Professor of Chemistry and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN
For developing the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) Workshop model for teaching chemistry. More info here.
Diane M. Bunce, Professor of Chemical Education, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Brian P. Coppola, Arthur F Thurnau Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Morton Z. Hoffman, Professor of Physical-Inorganic Chemistry, Boston University, Boston, MA
Richard N. Zare, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
- Link for Bio
David N. Harpp, Professor of Chemistry and Tomlinson Chair in Science Education, McGill University, Montreal, QC
Dennis G. Peters, Herman T. Briscoe Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. (Link for In Memoriam)
Billy Joe Evans, Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
- More info at The HistoryMakers
Joseph J. Lagowski, Professor of Chemistry, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (Link for In Memoriam)
Angelica M. Stacy, Professor of Chemistry, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
A. Truman Schwartz, DeWitt Wallace Professor of Chemistry, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN
Mary Virginia Orna, Professor of Chemistry, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY
Michael P. Doyle, D. R. Semmes Distinguished Professor, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX
Samuel P. Massie, Professor of Chemistry, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
- More info at The HistoryMakers
Arthur C. Breyer, Professor of Chemistry and Physics, Arcadia University, Glenside, PA
Jerry A. Bell, Director for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science
John W. Moore, W.T. Lippincott Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Institute for Chemical Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI
Joseph A. Schwarcz, Director of the Office for Science and Society, McGill University, Montreal, QC
Jerry Robert Mohrig, Herman and Gertrude Mosier Stark Professor of the Natural Sciences, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Dana W. Mayo, Charles Weston Pickard Professor of Chemistry, Bowdoin, Brunswick, ME (Link for In Memoriam)
Ronald M. Pike, Professor of Chemistry, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA (Link for In Memoriam)
Joseph Buckley Lambert, Clare Hamilton Hall Professor of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Glenn Arthur Crosby, Professor of Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
Derek A. Davenport, Professor of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (Link for In Memoriam)
Henry Albert Bent, Professor of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN (Link for In Memoriam)
Bassam Zekin Shakhashiri, William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
- President of the ACS in 2012.
William Thomas Lippincott, Professor of Chemistry, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Fred Basolo, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
- More info at the Science History Institute
- President of the ACS in 1983.
Robert Crocker Brasted, Professor of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Harry Hall Sisler, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (Link for In Memoriam)
- More info at the Science History Institute
Henry Cecil McBay, Professor of Chemistry, Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
- Link to profile on NOBCChE website as co-founder of this organization
Anna Jane Harrison, Professor of Chemistry, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke, MA (First female president of the ACS in 1978.)
Malcolm Mackenzie Renfrew, Professor of Chemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID (Contributor to the development of Teflon while at du Pont.)
- More info at the Science History Institute
Leonard Kollender Nash, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link to In Memoriam)
Grant Hopkins Harnet
Eugene George Rochow, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (Link to In Memoriam)
- Awarded the Perkin Medal in 1962 while at GE for his development of the direct process.
Saul Gerald Cohen, Professor of Chemistry, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (Link to In Memoriam)
Charles Lester Bickel, Instructor in Science and Chairman of the Department of Science, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
Hubert Newcombe Alyea aka “Dr. Boom”, Professor of chemistry, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
- Link to a video of his impressive chemistry demonstration.
Joseph Edward Mayer, Professor of Chemistry, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA
Samuel Edward Kamerling, Professor of Chemistry, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
William Campbell Root, Charles Weston Pickard Professor of Chemistry, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Edward Lauth Haenisch, Professor of Chemistry, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN
John Arrend Timm, Professor of Chemistry and Director of School of Science, Simmons College, Boston, MA
- Link to NEACT for the award named in his honor
Edgar Bright Wilson, Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy at the ACS is named in his honor.
- More info at the Science History Institute
Walter John Moore, Professor of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
James Arthur Campbell, Seeley W. Mudd Professor of Chemistry, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA (Founding faculty of the college)
Lawrence Edward Strong, Professor of Chemistry, Earlham College, Richmond, IN
Avery Allen Ashdown, Professor of Chemistry emeritus, MIT, Cambridge, MA
- Link to the NESACS award named in his honor
Ralph Lloyd Shriner, Professor of Chemistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (Link to In Memoriam)
Joel Henry Hildebrand, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, CA
- Joel Henry Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry of Liquids at the ACS named in his honor. President of the ACS in 1955.
Louis Plack Hammett, Professor of Chemistry, Columbia University, New York, NY
- One of the founders of physical organic chemistry and coined the term, also known for the Hammett equation.
1959 – Fall
Louis Frederick Fieser, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- More info at the Science History Institute, inventor of napalm
1959 – Spring
Herman Irving Schlesinger, Professor of Chemistry emeritus, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Co-discoverer of sodium borohydride
1957 – Fall
Farrington Daniels, Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
- Co-founder and director of the UW-Madison Solar Energy Laboratory, and an early pioneer in the direct use of solar energy.
- President of the ACS in 1953.
1957 – Spring
Emma Perry Carr, Professor of Chemistry, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke, MA
- First recipient of the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal of the ACS in recognition of distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists
Mary Lura Sherrill, Professor of Chemistry emeritus, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke, MA
- Fifth recipient of the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal of the ACS in recognition of distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists
Norris Watson Rakestraw, Professor of Chemistry and founder of the marine chemistry department, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, CA
Harry Nicholls Holmes, Professor of Chemistry, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH (ACS President in 1942)
- President of the ACS in 1942.
John Xan, Professor of Chemistry, Howard College (now Samford University), Birmingham, AL
George Shannon Forbes, Professor of Chemistry emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- “During his long teaching career, Dr. Forbes became an authority on atomic weights, electro- chemistry and photochemistry. He has published 85 research papers.”
- Link to New York Times article which mentioned Prof. Forbes receiving the first James Flack Norris award. He also worked closely with Prof. Theodore W. Richards.
Who We Are
Christine Caputo, Chair (2021-2024)
University of New Hampshire
Patricia Mabrouk (2021-2024)
Mark Tebbe (2023-2026)
Lori Ferris (2023-2026)
Members Outside of the Local Section
Professor, University of Arizona
Chemistry Faculty Member, Central New Mexico Community College
Ex Officio Member
Thomas A. Holme
Editor of the Journal of Chemical Education