Bunde utilizes retirement to acquire new equipment for Chemistry department

Dr. Terry Bunde has taught at Maryville College for 35 years and will retire in May. This undated photo was taken early in his career. He was once locked out of his office by a group of students about 15 years ago in an attempt to force him to cancel their early morning class. Photo courtesy of MC website

Dr. Terry Bunde’s office does not look how one would expect an organic chemistry professor’s office to look.

Two of his walls are dominated by colossal bookshelves, a dim lamp illuminates his work space, and visitors are welcomed to sit in one of the high-backed, almost Victorian-looking chairs, as classical music resonates throughout his “cave.”

However, his office is not devoid of evidence of his profession. In addition to an obvious dry-erase board strewn with various compounds, Bunde keeps an old scale in the upper corner of his office, on top of the bookshelves to remind himself of how far technology has come.

Now, however, Bunde is utilizing his retirement after 35 years of teaching at Maryville College as a campaign for a new piece of high-tech equipment. Bunde is working with the Advancement/Development office to raise $28,000 for a new Fourier transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR).

Bunde believes that the new FTIR will make the work of organic chemistry students  better, faster and easier, while helping attract strong candidates to fill his position.

“Here we are bringing in an organic chemist who’s anticipating that there’s going to be some decent equipment to teach with, and that one instrument is crucial for organic chemistry,” Bunde said. “We use it every week.”

Currently, the department has two 20-year-old FTIRs that Bunde has kept working himself by making repairs as needed. Now, one of them needs a new laser, but since the equipment is so old, Bunde is having trouble finding the replacement part.

“I said [to MC president Dr. Tom Bogart] that it would be nice if we had a campaign to raise money, and if you want to tie it to my retirement, that’s fine,” Bunde said. “It’s not about me; it’s about getting someone to replace me. I’m really concerned about getting the best person that we can.”

According to Holly Jackson-Sullivan, VP of advancement and community relations at MC, the campaign had raised $18,420 in gifts and pledges as of Nov. 30.

“There are people who are giving money to that campaign … that I haven’t seen for 30 years,” Bunde said. “That really warms the depths of my heart to know that they feel that strongly, that they’re willing to donate even though they haven’t seen me in 30 years.”

Though he is surprised that they remember him, Bunde has many memories of his students from the past 35 years, some of which he hopes to chronicle in writing.

“I have a book I laid out about three years ago, tentatively titled, ‘So You Want to Teach Chemistry at a Small College,’ and I want to go back and – no names and places and dates – use some of the anecdotal stories over the years that I’ve collected,” Bunde said. “It’ll be moderately humorous, obviously.”

One instance he would probably include occurred about 15 years ago when a group of students attempted to force Bunde to cancel his 8 a.m. class by locking down Sutton Science Center so he couldn’t get into his office. The students spent the entire night before blocking the upstairs entries and cabling all the doors together so they wouldn’t open.

Bunde made it his mission to be in his office in 30 minutes to turn on his office light to signal to the students (who all lived in Pearsons, which his office window faced) that class was going to happen.

After removing the hinges from the doors and sawing through the cable, Bunde ran to his office to switch on the light. Class was held as scheduled.

“Nobody said a word,” Bunde said of the students as they came to class. “Nobody would confess who did it and how long they worked on it, even though I had pretty good suspicions who the three or four or five of them were.”

When he is not documenting his memories of MC in his book, Bunde plans to spend his time pursuing other interests, such as writing poetry, fishing, photography and planting a vegetable garden.

“I really want to be able to plant a fall garden and a spring garden, which I can’t do because I’m grading papers during both of those times, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Bunde said.

He will also be spending more time with his wife of 40 years, to whom he made a unique promise concerning his retirement.

“I’ve promised my wife I’m going to say no to everything for six months. She works three or four days a week, since she’s retired, volunteering at various places, and she recommended highly that I just say no for six months. So I’m planning on doing that with one exception,” Bunde said. “I’m hoping to go back and work with Habitat one day a week during the week.”

While he doesn’t have a bucket list of places he wants to travel, Bunde admitted that he would love to return to Vietnam, where he spent one year after being drafted into the military. He would like to spend a year there teaching so he could say that he “was there under different circumstances.”

Though Bunde did not love his military experience in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he has a passion for the protest music of the time. This appreciation led him to design a senior seminar course about protest music and 20th-century change.

“I told Dr. [John] Nichols one day as I was going down the hallway with a whole pile of CDs on my textbooks and said, ‘I’ve finally found a way for the college to pay me to listen to music,’” Bunde said.

As much as Bunde has enjoyed teaching, he admits that he never intended to become a teacher. After graduating from the University of Florida, Bunde was doing biomedical research at Baylor and truly loved it, even though he was working 70-hour weeks. “I just immersed myself in it,” he said.

However, one day his wife told him that if he kept working 10-hour days seven days a week, they weren’t going to have kids.

That’s when Bunde applied to teach at Maryville College.

Initially he planned to teach for just four years and then go back to research, but he ended up staying.

“I guess there’s Velcro in the seat because I never left,” Bunde said. “I had a chance to do that research with students through the senior study program, and that was enough for me to satisfy that.”

Senior Ridge Carter, one such student with whom Bunde has recently worked, only had good things to say of his experience with the professor, both in the classroom and as they worked together on his thesis.

“[Working with him one-on-one] really showed me a lot about his character,” Carter said. “In part of my thesis, you know, the acknowledgement section, I wrote about how … it was a blessing to be around his character because his character rubs off on you and you work harder, you’re more positive, and you never give up. With my thesis, it was frustrating because it was a lot of trial and error, and it ended up not working out perfectly in the end, but if I didn’t have Dr. Bunde … as a role model to look up to, it would have been harder for sure.”

Bunde now receives multiple emails every day from former students updating him on their lives, and he encourages students to continue to do so via his Facebook page after he retires.

“I [won’t] miss grading papers. I won’t miss all the other committee meetings and all that stuff, but I will miss the students a lot,” Bunde said. “That’s what I’ll miss first, and then my fellow faculty members. I can stay in touch with them, but I’ll miss the daily interactions with students more than anything.”

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