A Tribute to Roy Adams

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Dr. Roy and Madge AdamsDr. Roy M. Adams (1919-2003)

  • Geneva College Chemistry faculty 1946-1985
  • Chemistry Department Chair 1957–1985
  • emeritus instructor and research mentor 1985-1998
  • international reputation in boron chemistry research and nomenclature
  • led the Chemistry Department to ACS approved status in 1958
  • namesake of the Roy Adams Chemistry Center in the S&E Building
  • beloved mentor, teacher, and Christian example to hundreds of Geneva students

“…and He (Jesus Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This quotation from Colossians 1:16 in the Bible was on a plaque that Dr. Adams kept on his wall. As a chemist, Dr. Adams used this verse to underscore that the very chemical bonds of molecules are sustained by God′s providence. But in a larger sense, this verse captures the essence of Dr. Adams′ life – Jesus Christ before all else and all aspects of life unified in Christ. Dr. Roy Adams made a profound impact on the development of science education at Geneva and in the lives of students over a period of nearly six decades.

In the early 1950s, Roy Adams began summer work at nearby Callery Chemical Company on the topic of high-energy boron-containing fuels. This was the beginning of a long journey in boron research, at Callery, at Battelle Memorial Institute, and with undergraduate students at Geneva. In 1964, he was the co-author and editor of Boron, Metallo-Boron Compounds, and Boranes, a widely regarded and authoritative book on the subject. He discovered and developed the molecule dimethylsulfide borane (DMSB) as a safe carrier for borane, a molecule which is still widely used for this purpose.. Two journal articles authored with Geneva students in 1971 reported this work, and many student research projects in the years that followed explored other aspects of borane chemistry. His name is listed on eleven patents related to production of boron compounds.

From 1966 to 1978, Roy Adams represented the National Research Council on the Inorganic Nomenclature Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) where he played a major role in developing consistent nomenclature for boron molecules. In all of these areas, his growing reputation and scholarship brought benefits to Geneva College. He helped to secure National Science Foundation funding for research support, equipment, and the expansion of the Science and Engineering Building. His leadership helped to enliven the entire faculty and raised the level of scholarship in the sciences and for Geneva as a whole.

In 1957, Roy Adams became chair of the Chemistry Department, and within a year led the department in successfully attaining the approved status of the American Chemical Society′s Committee on Professional Training. At the time, this was relatively rare among smaller colleges, with only three approved Chemistry programs in western Pennsylvania. In 2008, we celebrated 50 years of this approved status.

In 1980, Dr. Adams went back to school to receive additional training in chemical engineering and developed the program for Geneva′s major in this area. Once again, his dedication and leadership made it possible for Geneva to offer a program that was rare among small Christian colleges.

Roy and his wife Madge lived in nearby Darlington where they raised four sons; Mel, Renwick, Jonathan, and Joel. He was an elder in the Eastvale Reformed Presbyterian Church for 54 years were he served faithfully and well. Many a college student benefited from their hospitality. While we often praise a person for their accomplishments in this world, and by God′s grace, Roy Adams did accomplish much, yet, the more accurate reflection of a life′s worth is in the people we touch. Roy Adams touched many lives. He was a beloved mentor, teacher, and Christian example to multiple generations of Geneva students.

On March 26, 2003, the Lord called Roy Adams to his heavenly home. His work on this earth was done.  Those who knew him remember his dedication to the cause of Christ and to Geneva College, his excellence in scholarship and teaching, his patience, and his quiet humility. The Chemistry Department at Geneva strives to follow the tremendous example which he set for us.

“…Jesus Christ before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”