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ODU's Isenhour Is Sharing His Expertise Worldwide

After completing a five-year term in 2007 as Old Dominion University's provost and vice president for academic affairs, Thomas Isenhour is returning to the globetrotting life of a multi-talented consultant.

He will be in Bulgaria in May as an adviser to that country's Ministry of Education and Science, which is establishing a National Science Fund to promote research and economic development.

In September, he will be part of a People-to-People Ambassador Team going to South Africa to consult on the subject of school administration.

These trips follow his work in China last December with a People-To-People Ambassador Team on Global Climate Change and Environmental Science. Positive experiences during the China trip, he said, makes him especially eager to work with a People-to-People team in South Africa. "I have watched with excitement the development of South Africa and it will be a great pleasure to meet with them and discuss issues in school administration," Isenhour said. "I look forward to this and other opportunities to make international contributions in the future."

Isenhour, who is professor of chemistry at ODU, has had international scope to most of his career.

He attended many international meetings and was three times a plenary lecturer at international conferences. In the 1970s, Isenhour headed an instrumentation consulting team that worked in the United States and Germany. The scientific instrument manufacturer Varian-MAT invited him to Bremen, Germany, to be director of research, he said. "I had to make a hard choice. I realized I wanted to continue to teach so I turned them down. It wasn't a good economic decision but I am glad I made it."

Isenhour found out his research had a large international audience when his book with Peter Jurs, "Chemical Applications of Pattern Recognition," was translated into Russian. "In those days," he said, "the communists didn't respect international copyright. I only learned my book had been translated when I received a package containing two copies of the Russian version and a letter telling me they were paying me 100 rubles which I had to go to Russia to collect. I never got the royalty."

The book was also translated into Polish and a textbook of Isenhour's was translated into Czech.

In 1980, Isenhour was invited to Hebrew University as the Kolthoff Endowed Visiting Professor in Analytical Chemistry. "Living in Jerusalem was one of the greatest experiences of my life," he said. Again in 1992-93, Isenhour lived abroad serving as provost and dean for the founding of the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, a village in the Pirin Mountains about 100 kilometers north of the Greek border.

The fact that Isenhour had lived and worked in education in Bulgaria, along with his earlier experience as a program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, made him an excellent fit for the Bulgarian project in May.

Isenhour also served on the first Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria, and has had academic ties to research institutes in Bulgaria and neighboring countries such as Romania, Turkey and Macedonia.

"We have a great deal of expertise in the management of scientific research in the United States. We became the world leader in science in the 20th century and we should do all we can to export our knowledge to the rest of the world. Everyone will profit," he said.

This article was posted on: April 14, 2008

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