An actor and pilot in his free time, new dean of sciences exhorts his staff, "Let's be bold!"


Tom Isenhour sees a definite direction for the College of Sciences - upward.

Dean of the college since mid-July, Isenhour said he was enthused by what was going on in the college before his arrival. Since then, he's found even more reason to be optimistic.

When he arrived on campus, Isenhour said he discovered a vital teaching and research faculty and a framework for interdisciplinary partnerships with other institutions, including those in education, government and the private sector.

"I was excited when I arrived; I'm more excited now," Isenhour said. "I see a growing effect on both the educational and economic development of this region."

Addressing his co-workers more than a month after coming on board, Isenhour set the course for the college.

"If we continue to build on the hard work, creativity and courage of the past, all of us will be able to look back in 10 years and know we helped a fine university become a truly outstanding one," he said. "If we are bold, we can achieve new greatness. Let's be bold."

Isenhour came to Old Dominion from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he had served as professor and chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department since 1994. Previously, he was dean of arts and sciences from 1987-90 and professor of chemistry from 1987-94 at Kansas State University.

He also has held academic and administrative positions at Utah State University, the University North Carolina and the National Science Foundation.

Isenhour was a visiting professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1980 and served as provost and academic dean during the founding of the American University of Bulgaria in 1992.

He took up acting while in Bulgaria in 1994, appearing as Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind," a play staged, ironically, he said, at the former headquarters of the Communist Party in Blagoevgrad, where the university is located.

Since then he has appeared in more than 30 plays in Pittsburgh community theatre, including "Twelve Angry Men," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Dial M for Murder" and "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

Isenhour took part in a play reading for Old Dominion's recent Literary Festival and is hopeful that he can pursue his acting in Hampton Roads community theatre next year. In addition, this Renaissance man enjoys playing jazz piano and playwriting.

"As a scientist and a closet artist, I've always been a sheep in wolf's clothing," he said.

Isenhour, who is a pilot and flight instructor with more than 1,600 hours of flight time, co-owns a twin-engine airplane with a colleague at the University of North Carolina. The father of two grown children, he also enjoys skiing and motorcycling.

Isenhour has administered grants from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA in the range of $20,000 to $200,000 a year. Over the past five years he has received instrumentation grants averaging $250,000 per year. He has published nearly 200 professional papers, books and editorials and has served as plenary lecturer at three international meetings.

Isenhour's current research areas are remote sensing of volatile organic compounds by passive Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and nuclear materials inventory control by robust statistics and time series analysis. He has a book in progress, titled "Ancient Greek vs. Modern Science." TOP