Teaching at MVNC in 1979

Joseph H. Lechner, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry

Joseph H. Lechner

The halls were truly alive with the sound of music in fall 1979. At precisely 7:25 a.m. (MVNC still had 7:30 classes in those days), strains of a familiar hymn rang out from the bell tower atop Campus Center. Another hymn was played at 4:30 p.m. when most classes (except science labs) were finished for the day. Richard Schuster, our librarian, kept the pre-recorded tapes in his office. Everyone was aghast one morning when a prankster had surreptitiously switched tapes, causing the carillon to play a Beatles tune!

Soon after the morning chimes subsided, Faculty Hall resonated with the baritone voice of Dr. Gary Burkholder, who always opened biology class by leading students in a hymn.

The music department was housed in a temporary frame building, approximately where the library parking lot is today. Chapel was held in the Multi-Purpose Building, whose acoustics weren’t well suited for singing; so choirs rehearsed in Faculty Hall’s large lecture auditorium. How lovely to be serenaded with selections from Messiah during afternoon laboratories. I don’t think our music faculty ever found out that their grand piano occasionally functioned as a chemistry demonstration table.

Students, then as now, were our reason for existence. Tina was the first student to introduce herself, on the steps of Campus Center.

I’ll never forget my first Organic Chemistry class. Those brave souls will never forget their final exam. They began working at 10 a.m. Seven hours later, they were still at it and no one would leave, so I had to bring them dinner. I learned my lesson and did not give open-book exams again! That group of 10 earned at least five doctoral degrees. Jim and Tina became family-practice physicians. Susan became a clinical psychologist. Kathleen earned a dual M.D.-Ph.D. and did important research on pathogenic viruses. Steve flies jumbo jets for Delta Airlines.

MVNC’s computer science program was in its infancy. Their laboratory was a narrow room in Faculty Hall. Nobody owned a personal computer. Applications that we take for granted today were nonexistent. Since I was determined to create a grade-keeping program, computer science majors were kind enough to allow me to use the lab’s sole video terminal. Jim Skon and Tim Myatt (both seniors that year) went on to earn graduate degrees, then returned to become valued colleagues and lifelong friends.

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