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We are deeply saddened by the loss of a Chemistry icon, Professor George Richason, who passed at the age of 99 years.

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"George's history is the history of UMass. He touched tens of thousands of students over his nearly 70 year career at UMass Amherst (29 as faculty and 39 in very active "retirement") and our alums remain incredibly loyal to him today."–Craig Martin, Department Head


George R. Richason, Jr. was born in Turners Falls in 1916, and enrolled at then Massachusetts State College in 1933, earning a BS in Chemistry in 1937 and an MS in 1939. Upon graduation, he began teaching Chemistry at Turners Falls High School. With the onset of the war, in 1942 he enlisted in the US Naval Reserve, and served as instructor of electronics and radar engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1943-1945. In 1947, he joined the UMass chemistry faculty as an Assistant Professor. From 1950 to his retirement, he directed the General Chemistry program, where he earned the respect and admiration of many thousands of students. Indeed in 1962, George was the second recipient of the University's highest honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award. By tradition, the most senior faculty recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award carries the University Mace at the annual commencement ceremonies – George Richason carried the mace at commencement for 45 consecutive years!

Throughout much of its history, George played many key roles at UMass Amherst. He served as Associate Head of the Chemistry Department for 32 years (1962-1994) and continued many of those functions (especially, major advising) well beyond 1994. A huge supporter of our student athletes, he served for many years on the University's Athletic Council and was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982, one of only four non-athletes or coaches to earn this honor. Although George retired in 1976, he continued contributing to the Department and the University for four decades past retirement! In that period, he has served as Associate Head, Chief Undergraduate Advisor, Chief Scheduling Officer, and Chemistry major advisor, while remaining a key fixture on the Athletic Council. In 1991 George received an honorary Doctorate of Science from his alma mater. Over the years George has been very active in the UMass Amherst Alumni Association (UMAAA). From 1968 to 1994 he served on both its Board of Directors and Executive Committee. In recognition of his long and faithful service to the UMAAA, in 1974 he received the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Service. In 1994 he was honored as an Emeritus Member of the Alumni Association's Board of Directors, the only person ever so honored. In 2014, he was presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, recognizing his almost 70 years of distinguished service to the Department of Chemistry and the to University of Massachusetts Amherst.

(April 2015)