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Prof. Hervé Marand retires after 29 years

In June, Prof. Hervé Marand was officially conferred the title of professor emeritus by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. A member of the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, Materials Research Society, and the Society of Plastics Engineers, Marand received his bachelor’s at École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Paris, France, and his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At Virginia Tech, he has received the Alan F. Clifford Department Service Award and twice won the department’s Jimmy Viers Teaching Award.

A member of the university community since 1989, Prof. Marand brought international recognition to Virginia Tech and the Department of Chemistry through his work in polymer crystallization. He was the principal or co-principal investigator on several research grants (notably, he was the first and last recipient in the department of the NSF Young Investigator Award, the predecessor to the NSF CAREER Award) on structure-processing-physical property correlations in semicrystalline polymers, and was the author or co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and reviews. His development of new theory to explain the crystallization behavior of important polymers that are part of our daily lives (polyethylene, nylon, and more) is ground-breaking.

In the classroom, Marand was an innovator and taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses ranging across the fields of chemistry, materials science, and engineering. He was the first in the department to adopt a flipped classroom approach to teaching. He taught the department’s first (and, to date, only) online class and also  developed one of our first courses for the winter session, which involves teaching what would normally be a 14-week course in a regular semester in a 3–4 week period—and his students did well. Most notably, these courses were in physical chemistry, among the most rigorous (and feared) courses in our curriculum. He was a dedicated teacher, willing to put in extraordinary effort to ensure the success of his students.

He advised numerous students on master’s degree and doctoral dissertations and helped them develop successful careers in academic, government, and industrial settings. One of his former students, Greenville College Professor Darrell Iler (Ph.D. ‘95) wrote that while Prof. Marand “expected a strong and dedicated effort from all of his students, he was always ready to offer grace and emotional support to those who were struggling with the challenges of graduate school or personal issues. He was an excellent role model for demonstrating that you can still be a great scientist and still put people first.” Current student Matt Vincent cites Prof. Marand’s impact when he instilled a sense of ownership in Matt, turning his research project into his own, and not just a directive passed down from an advisor. Matt writes that “[Dr. Marand] has taught me that a strong fundamental understanding of your work and the ability to defend your experimental approach and conclusions are paramount to being a good scientist.” 

For eight years, Prof. Marand also served as associate chair for the department. In addition to managing the department’s budget, he helped oversee a complete reorganization of our business operations. His creativity and ability to negotiate with entities both on and off campus saved the department hundreds of thousands of dollars and provided new research and educational opportunities for our faculty and students. Hervé’s fine attention to minute details enabled his success both as a researcher and as associate chair, however, this exceptional talent did not always translate to daily life.

Prof. Marand has one, albeit minor weakness that his colleagues will fondly remember. While he could account for every penny in the department’s budget, derive complex thermodynamic relationships from first principles and more, he had an amazing propensity for misplacing his keys and/or wallet. Several times a month—and we may be being overly kind—Prof. Marand would call the main office from the bus stop asking someone to check his office for his keys or wallet. Prof. Tanko has hiked regularly with Hervé over the years. But in situations where there were two cars involved, Jim would insist on overseeing the placement of the car keys into a safe place. Failure to do so would invite the risk of hiking 10–20 miles and having to turn around.

Prof. Marand may be retiring, but all that really means that we are no longer paying him. Over the next few months, he will continue working with his remaining graduate students, and publishing more groundbreaking papers dealing with polymer crystallization theory. His newfound time will allow him to pursue life to its fullest… travel with his wife Carol, visits with his three children (and grandchildren), and of course, hiking.

The article was written by Professor Jim Tanko and supplemented by a VT News article from earlier this summer.