Longest tenured UCCS professor recalls early campus days

Oct. 7, 2013

April Wefler
[email protected]

While the campus continues to change and expand, Allen Schoffstall, UCCS’ longest-tenured professor, remains. Schoffstall, who teaches chemistry, remembers a different UCCS.

He and his wife, Mary Carole Schoffstall, arrived in Colorado Springs in 1967. Mary Carole Schoffstall was dean of Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences until 2008 and helped bring Beth-El into the university system.

“When I arrived here, I believed I started with 12 other new faculty that year and in those days, all we had was Old Main, Cragmor Hall and a building known as South Hall, which later burned,” he said.

He recalled parking also being an issue – but not because of space. “For the first six or seven years … we had a couple of dirt parking lots, which in the winter can get pretty yucky, so it was a pretty small place.”

He said the average age of students when he first came was 28 and older, and most of the students were part-time, working adults.

Dwire Hall was completed when Schoffstall was at UCCS in 1971. “The building was originally supposed to be about at least a third, maybe half as big as it actually is,” he said, but that the Commission of Higher Education was originally against UCCS expansion.

“I remember one meeting, we were called an ‘illegal outpost’ by the head of the commission,” he said.

He has taught various classes in chemistry, including organic, general, environmental science, chemical evolution and advanced organic.

“And then, a couple of times, I’ve done another advanced class, which dealt with separations of compounds and syntheses of organic compounds using special conditions such as inert atmospheres and low-temperature dry ice reactions,” he said.

“We do fancy separations using specialized chromatography apparatus,” he added.

He’s been department chair numerous times and is currently in charge of assessment and the chemistry master’s program.

“One of the things I’m particularly pleased about is the overall development of our department over the years. We promote student learning, student wellness, try[ing] to help students as much as we can in a difficult subject matter,” he said.

In addition, he currently teaches a class for new lab instructors and an elective organic class known as heterocyclic chemistry.

“In particular, we make substituted triazoles, which have been synthesized by a new kind of synthetic method, known as click chemistry,” Schoffstall said.

He said he and his research students published a paper on click chemistry and are working on another one. “We’ve made quite a number of new compounds. We hope to do some testing of compounds against bacteria, against enzymes, in conjunction with Dr. Braun-Sand.”

“Hopefully, we’ll send some up to Denver for pharmacological testing ’cause heterocyclic compounds tend to be very useful as drug candidates,” he said.

Last summer, Schoffstall was on a grant committee for the Research Experience for Undergraduates. The grant program consisted of eight participants from different colleges and one from UCCS. Research lasted for 10 weeks with four faculty members.

“It was really highly successful; everybody praised the program,” he said.

Schoffstall said that he’s always been drawn to academia. “It just seems like a much more interesting, challenging lifestyle and I’ve always enjoyed forming new stuff and telling people about chemistry and doing chemistry,” he said.

Schoffstall’s dad died when he was six, and his mom couldn’t afford to keep him. “In those days, they didn’t have child support and whatnot, so she had to go to work … essentially, she gave up legal guardianship of me and so I went to an orphanage,” he said.

He lived in the orphanage until graduating high school and then started college at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Penn, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in chemistry.

Schoffstall then earned a Ph.D. at Suny, Buffalo State University and did postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.