Reedies Unite to Honor Chemistry Prof

When beloved Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [chemistry 1993–2014] passed away in September 2014 after a hard-fought battle with lymphoma, her husband Tom Armstrong decided to make a gift in her name.


Since then, there has been an outpouring of love and support from her colleagues, students, alumni, and friends. So far, a total of 139 donors have raised more than $140,000 for the Maggie Geselbracht Chemistry Student Research Fund.

The fund underwrites summer research for chemistry students and provides money for traveling to conferences to present their research.

“Maggie’s signature contribution to student development was that she really wanted them engaged in research,” Armstrong explains. “It was a big deal for her to have students go to national meetings of the American Chemical Society to present posters and research.”

Prof. Geselbracht joined the chemistry department in 1993 and became its first tenured female professor. Her legacy has inspired gifts from a remarkable range of people—former students who want to honor her influence on their education and career, parents of former students who appreciate the way she mentored their students, colleagues, friends, and family.

“Maggie seemed to be at the center of the web,” says her friend and colleague Prof. Arthur Glasfeld [chemistry 1989–]. “She was often the first chemist that our students got to know because she taught the fall semester of our intro chemistry sequence and had her finger on the pulse of every movement of their lives as they moved through the chemistry curriculum.”

Chantal Sudbrack ’97, a materials scientist with NASA, chose chemistry as a major because Prof. Geselbracht made it approachable. “Maggie was a phenomenal instructor,” Chantal says, “brash, full of zeal and passion, with a trademark smile that made her instantly likeable. She not only believed in us, but she also had the uncanny ability to inspire us to believe in ourselves. Make no mistake, she was demanding, but we rose to the occasion believing that we could excel.”

Chantal supported the fellowship because it opens doors for young scientists, providing opportunities not only to develop connections, but to gain a sense of direction in what area of science to pursue.

Natalie Keehan ’15 and Eve Mozur ’15 were the first students to receive Geselbracht scholarships, which allowed them to attend the national ACS meeting and exposition in Denver.

“Maggie was a huge inspiration to me,” says Natalie. “Her intro inorganic course was one of the major reasons I wanted to be a chemistry major. Whenever I write about chemistry, I am constantly thinking about whether or not it would be something that I would be proud to show Maggie.”

“Maggie’s boundless energy for teaching chemistry convinced me that I could spend my life thinking about the problems she presented to me,” says Eve, who is starting a PhD program next year. “I hope that I can emulate some of her enthusiasm for her subject, her incredible ability to mentor—and her ability to pull off cowboy boots and d-orbital earrings.”