As the freshmen of the introductory chemistry
class put away their lab equipment, a faint singing noise arose from outside the classroom doors. “Who would be singing at this time of day?” they all thought. The voices grew stronger and louder. As the doors opened, a gray-bearded professor led a troupe of sophomores into the room, belting “chemistry carols” about the topics at hand.
“I’m not sure what the non-majors thought of us, but my students had a blast,” said Dr. William Bordeaux, professor of chemistry, who retired this spring after a 45-year teaching career.
Bordeaux always enjoyed getting to know his students and colleagues on a personal level. His motto: Life is too short, so why not make the most of it?
In such a demanding work environment for both students and faculty, he provides a light-hearted attitude needed to remind people about the simple joys in life — such as a good laugh.
“In my early days of teaching when I was trying to prepare a lecture under time pressure, he came to my office wearing one of his silly masks,” said Dr. Ruth Nalliah, colleague and professor of chemistry. “Thinking there was some sort of departmental business to discuss, I frantically tried to keep scribbling my notes. But once I looked up, I couldn’t stop laughing. Over the years, I’ve appreciated various forms of comic relief provided unexpectedly, free of charge, by Dr. Bordeaux. It adds a fresh perspective to the workday.”
Bordeaux has spent the last 45 years teaching courses ranging from organic chemistry to biochemistry, not to mention providing a little laughter. This spring, he hung up his wig and mask collection to begin a new phase in his life — retirement.
“I think it’s time to try new things,” he said. “I’m ready to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. I actually have another grandchild on the way.”
Bordeaux always wanted to pursue a career in Christian education. He fell in love with organic chemistry as an undergraduate student and felt called to pursue a career in educating students. He first taught in Christian high schools and universities, but then learned of a chemistry position at Huntington.
“I liked what I saw in Huntington,” he said. “The school had a vision and high hopes for the future. I loved the college environment when I was a student so I knew I wanted to go back and teach for a university.”
Colleagues describe Bordeaux as “forever young with a wealth of experience.” He has shared his wealth of experience and passion for studying chemistry with several generations of students.
“I don't know if he remembers it, but I still remember in the middle of my freshman year when Doc B. and I had a conversation about my future ambitions,” said Scott Cressman, a 2010 chemistry alum and current medical school student. “My goals were still rather up in the air at the time, and he essentially told me that he trusted my ability wherever I ended up heading in life. Being the first person in my family to pursue a doctorate degree, hearing something like that from a faculty member early on in my education was instrumental.”
Ever since he arrived at Huntington in fall 1987, Bordeaux has contributed ideas and advice to make the university a stronger institution. He has enjoyed serving on various committees, especially the team responsible for designing plans for the Science Hall. He also offered insight and assisted in establishing the nursing program.
“Dr. Bill Bordeaux has provided incredible stability and excellent leadership to our chemistry program over the last 25 years,” said Dr. Norris Friesen, who was the dean of the faculty during many years of Bordeaux’s time at HU. “Dr. Bordeaux has consistently emphasized intellectual growth and the development of the mind over his 25 years and will leave a legacy of encouraging students to think through why they believe what they believe.”
Bordeaux also lent a hand in overseeing and initiating the Ferne and Audry Hammel Research Endowment when he served as Division Chair for the Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. The endowment provides resources and assistance to faculty and students conducting research studies within the division.
“Dr. Bordeaux was instrumental in first bringing a new type of instrument, an F.T.I.R., to the campus for the analysis of organic compounds,” Nalliah said. “For years, he has also provided a fun and valuable maturing experience for students serving as cabin leaders at Camp Michindoh in his outdoor environmental education January term class. Whether dealing with colleagues or students, it’s evident that his number one goal is to see others succeed.”
Adjusting to life outside the classroom might not be as easy for him at first, but his influence will not be lost in his absence.
“His sphere of influence has extended to many on campus — from those who have received cut outs of their newspaper clippings to those who chat with him in the gym or the hallways,” Nalliah said. “He has taught and influenced several generations of students since his arrival 25 years ago. He is the type of professor who sends Christmas cards to lab assistants, and sets out a Christmas tree at Christmas. He is one of the first to help with grilling at cookouts or move-in jobs when people need it. Even though those jobs are tiring, Dr. Bordeaux is one of the most eager faculty to help.”
After so many years contributing to the chemistry field, Bordeaux said his biggest highlight of his career has been watching students grow after leaving college.
“The success of my students when they go on from here, something I see constantly, makes the hard work worth it,” he said. “On occasion, I’ll get a letter or e-mail many years later telling me about an impact I had on someone’s life that made a big difference for them. Each time this has happened, I’ve wondered what in the world I said or did that made this impression. I am convinced that God used something and someone pretty ordinary to make that difference for the person.”
Students enrolled in the chemistry program will always remember the devotionals he led before beginning class and his famous cookies.
“Doc. B. seems to relate perfectly to what all the students are feeling at that time when he leads a devotional,” said Stacie Cressman, a junior chemistry major. “He has incredible knowledge about so many areas outside of chemistry and even science. He not only teaches us in class, but outside of it as well. I have not met a chemistry major that does not have respect for him. He has impacted many of his students by teaching us how to be all around better people.”
With his new life beginning this summer, Bordeaux and his wife will stay in the Huntington area to invest in their family and in the community. Bordeaux has been an active member in the Huntington community for several years. He served on the county waste management committee and volunteered as a judge for local school science fairs. He and his wife also will stay active at College Park Church where he serves as an elder. He also might return to teach classes on a part-time basis.
Along with spending quality time with his family, Bordeaux looks forward to traveling more with his wife. He is planning to travel to China to assist in an educational program this summer.
“I don’t sit still very well,” he said. “I look at this time as commencement. It’s the beginning of something new.”