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UNCP honors visionary scientist John Reissner


The John Eric Reissner Scientific Computing and Visualization Laboratory was dedicated on April 13 in the Oxendine Science Building at UNC Pembroke.

The learning lab allows students to see complex molecular structures projected in three dimensions. Professor Emeritus Reissner was a physical chemist and 30-year member of the faculty.

“Few were aware,” Dr. Jose D’Arruda noted, “that Dr. Reissner’s gifts to the University funded much of the lab’s cost. He also contributed to the development of fellow faculty members.”

“I think John would really appreciate the completion of this piece of his dream,” said Dr. D’Arruda, a long-time colleague in the Department of Chemistry and Physics.

The dedication took place during Chancellor Installation Week, which featured a variety of events for faculty, staff, students and friends of the university. Guests were treated to 3-D glasses and demonstrations of the dual projection system.

Several members of the Reissner family were on hand, including his wife, Zollene; daughter, Kate; son, Steven; and sister, Eva Ewing.

Zollene talked about her husband, who died in 2006. “One sentence I never heard John say was ‘that doesn’t interest me,’” she said. “John loved science and science education. He loved it when students did well and grieved when they did not. I hope there will be a lot of ‘aha’ moments in this room. He would like that.”

Steven Reissner said his father loved “the process of education and the pursuit of science. He was always pleased to see this University grow and loved being part of it.”

Colleagues offered tributes to Dr. Reissner. Fellow physical chemist Dr. Roland Stout said he applied for his faculty position at UNCP, in part, to work with Reissner.

“We had some really great lunch conversations and not just about science,” Dr. Stout said. “He was a treasure.”

Dr. Tom Dooling, a physicist, said Dr. Reissner was an advocate of teaching with technology. He also worked to bring high performance Silicon Graphics workstations to campus.

“He looked forward to the future of education with technology,” Dr. Dooling said. “This room accomplishes his goal of training students with advanced technology.”

Born in Boston, Mass., Dr. Reissner received his undergraduate education at Harvard University and earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at San Diego.