Robert N. Hammer, PhD
Okemos - Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Michigan State University (MSU) died on September 14, 2020 at his home in Okemos, one day shy of his 96th birthday. He was born September 15, 1924 in Kansas City, KS to the late Nelson E. and Ethel F. (Skuse) Hammer.
Hammer received his undergraduate degrees from the University of Kansas and PhD from the University of Illinois in 1954. After graduation he moved to East Lansing and joined the MSU chemistry faculty. In the 1960's he held the additional assignment of Assistant Director of MSU's esteemed Honors College.
Annually freshman chemistry classes often had 3,000 students and were taught in large lecture halls. In the 1960's Hammer began thinking about using a tape-recorded method of teaching that would allow students to progress at their individual paces. In 1970 Hammer refined this revolutionary method of teaching, and the first sessions recorded on tape cassettes began in 1973. Hammer's lectures were recorded on 50,000 cassettes. During his tenure he also advised numerous post-doctoral students and chaired dissertation committees culminating in 12 students receiving their doctorates. He was a dedicated educator often working evenings and weekends on behalf of countless generations of students. After serving for 35 years Hammer, Director of General Chemistry, retired in 1989.
After retirement he continued as co-owner of Okemos Press, publisher of chemistry workbooks used by colleges and universities. He was a member of the American Chemical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Hammer was a true renaissance man of considerable intellect and talent. He was a skilled woodworker having in his youth built organ consoles for Charles McManis, organ builder in Kansas City, KS. He was also an accomplished organist with his own Allen organ. He was an avid photographer, and friends enjoyed viewing his latest artistic efforts.
He is survived by an extensive "chosen family" whom he loved and who loved him in return. This includes John Decker of Holt, who unselfishly provided the care and support needed to keep Hammer in his home; William Schneider and Owen Neils of Mason; Mark Stager of NY, NY; Scott Woodard and Todd Baisch of Chicago; Gordon Hall of Rosarito Mexico and many others.
Hammer will be interred at Maple Grove Cemetery, Mason. Due to the Covid-19 virus, no celebration of his life is planned at this time.
Published in Lansing State Journal from Sep. 19 to Sep. 20, 2020.