Students Say Farewell to Chemistry Prof

Laura Lacy

For the students of Professor Larry Byrd, the traditional gold watch retirement ceremony just wasn’t enough. They knew this professor of organic chemistry was worth at least one more celebration and on Feb. 27, Byrd got his personal homage.

Students from the beginning of Byrd’s 35-year career up to this past year attended the banquet. By the time the food was ready to be served, the banquet hall was filled with people who all had great respect, admiration and affection for Byrd.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Executive Director of the Glendale College Foundation, Lisa Brooks, on the attendance at the event.

At the entrance of the banquet hall on a long white table sat a book put together for Byrd by his students. The book consisted of dozens of pictures of the professor, his coworkers and his pupils throughout Byrd’s career.

The book was organized as a token of the students’ affection and a gift of thanks for Byrd. It also gave a remarkable portrayal of what it was like to be a student in that class. “The whole year was an adventure,” said Manik Hatsakorzian, a 2007 graduate, on studying with Byrd. “He makes the whole year memorable.”

One coworker whose image could be found in those pages more than once was David Davenport, another chemistry professor. Davenport referred to Byrd as “one of the most generous and helpful people I’ve ever worked with.”

An emergency committee of previous students who congregated especially for the occasion organized the event. One member, Sevada Chamras, now a Chemistry professor himself, reminisced on Byrd’s teaching style. “His teaching was perfect. By far the best I’ve ever had.”

The committee formed together on what was a tight schedule because they know the importance of honoring Byrd. Most of the attendees admitted to owing Byrd for the success of their career. It was felt amongst many of Byrd’s former pupils that his teaching practices were key to their accomplishments.

“Organic chemistry is not an easy subject,” said Patty Attajaroon, one of Byrd’s students in 2008, “but Dr. Byrd did more than just teach the students. He gave us a comfortable environment to learn.”

Byrd was most remembered for his humor and witty style of teaching. His energy and passion could draw in the students in ways they never would expect in the study of organic chemistry.

Throughout his career, Byrd’s teaching talents have been recognized by numerous organizations. Byrd accepted the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1994 and 2001, and the Outstanding Faculty Award in 2005. He also was listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 1996. His students, however, will always remember him as “The Organic King.”

At the end of the banquet, Byrd was given one last honor. After the presentation of the plaque, Brooks took the podium. Much to Byrd’s surprise, Brooks had more to say than just a recognition piece. Due to her efforts and Byrd’s excellence in teaching, there is now a chemistry scholarship in Larry Byrd’s name.