Lander Distinguished Professor knows how to get his students' attention
May 29, 2008
Dr. Lynn Deanhardt became interested in chemistry when he was in the fourth grade and growing up in Belton. But he said his teachers at Belton High School, especially chemistry teacher, Dr. Marvin Woodson, influenced him to choose chemistry as a career.
"I always liked experimenting," said Deanhardt explaining that in his first experiments he made firecrackers using a combination of chemicals obtained from a drugstore where he worked and household items.
That carried over into his job as professor of analytical chemistry at Lander University where he often uses flashy chemical reactions to demonstrate scientific concepts. Deanhardt said his goal is to motivate students to learn and reach their potential and, with a grin, he adds, "My former students may not remember a lot of what I said, but they remember the experiments."
His classroom accomplishments, innovations in teaching and course content have earned Deanhardt Lander's prestigious 2008 Distinguished Professor of the Year award recognizing exemplary performance as a teacher and scholar and service to Lander and beyond. How does he feel about being singled out? "It is a very humbling experience. There are people more deserving than I."
Deanhardt earned his chemistry degree at Clemson University and doctorate in analytical chemistry at North Carolina State University. He taught classes while in graduate school and that experience persuaded him to go into teaching as a career. "I seemed to have a gift of being able to explain difficult subjects," he said.
Deanhardt had 10 years of teaching experience before joining the Lander faculty in 1985, and for 16 years, he was an instructor in the summer science program at the Governor's School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville.
In addition to classroom teaching, he enjoys appearing before community groups to talk about chemistry and demonstrate that, while chemistry is difficult, it can also be fun. He estimates he has made well over 100 appearances before schoolchildren, church audiences and civic organizations.
What might be considered his most valuable contribution to the Greenwood area is the work he and his colleagues in Lander's environmental science program and many of their students have done over the years monitoring the water quality of Lake Greenwood. Since 2002, Deanhardt has received six research grants totaling more than $90,000. He enlisted 11 students to help him collect and test water samples from the lake to identify pollutants such as heavy metals. Nine of the students presented the results of their research to one national and four regional scientific meetings. As an aside, he said the lake's water quality is "pretty good."
According to Deanhardt, the main focus of the lake research project is student experience. "It gives them a taste of what graduate school research will be like," he said, adding, "Our science students receive a lot of hands-on opportunities they would not receive at larger schools."
He takes pride in the record of Lander chemistry graduates who have gone on to further their education and done very well. He said it gives him a lot of personal satisfaction to witness their success. In the last six years, he has served as an adviser to 88 students, giving them guidance on internships, summer research programs and graduate schools. He has also been busy writing letters of recommendation.
Deanhardt said Lander graduates have little trouble finding work in the chemical field because job opportunities are plentiful. Many are working in laboratories at Capsugel, Fuji, Solutia and Davis and Floyd in Greenwood and at state agencies including the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
While his teaching duties and community work keep him busy, Deanhardt has made himself available for Lander committee assignments, taken part in open house events to greet prospective students and their families, and served as a peer evaluator for members of the science faculty.
He is also a member of the American Chemical Society and the South Carolina Academy of Science.
His wife of 38 years, Adrian, is an X-ray technician at Self Regional Healthcare. They have a daughter, a son and four grandchildren and one on the way in November. Deanhardt's mother, Lois Hall Deanhardt, attended Lander in the 1940s.
Deanhardt describes himself as "a small-town kind of guy." But whether in a classroom, his laboratory at Lander or standing in front of an audience in the community, he is an enthusiastic scientist and educator who believes he can help people better understand scientific concepts by making those concepts come alive.