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Obituary - Alan F. Clifford, former chemistry head

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 17 - January 18, 1996

Alan F. Clifford, head of the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Tech from 1966-1981, died Friday, Dec. 1, 1995.

Clifford came to Virginia Tech in 1966 as head of the department and professor of chemistry. Before that, he had taught at Purdue University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Delaware. He served as head of the department until 1981 and thereafter as a professor of chemistry, full time until 1985 and half time up to his retirement Dec. 31, 1987.

Clifford was a Guggenheim fellow at The University, Cambridge, England, 1951-53. He was the author of the book Inorganic Chemistry of Qualitative Analysis and a co-author of the monograph Inorganic Chemistry in Liquid Hydrogen Fluoride. He held several patents for chemical processes. His research was in the areas of Mossbauer spectroscopy, rare-earths chemistry and, especially, inorganic fluorine chemistry. This work was published as some 60 papers in professional journals. He organized or lectured in symposia and conferences throughout the country and around the world.

He graduated 23 masters and 17 Ph.D. students while at Virginia Tech and had nine post-doctoral fellows work under his tutelage.

Clifford was an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a member of the American Chemical Society and served that organization in numerous ways, including chairing subcommittees of the Division of Inorganic Chemistry, organizing symposia at national meetings in the Division of Fluorine Chemistry, and chairing the Blue Ridge Section.

He was also a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the Chemical Society of London, the Virginia Academy of Sciences, the New York Academy of Science, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and other professional organizations.

Clifford was considered by colleagues to be a very successful head of the Department of Chemistry. He doubled the faculty from 15 to 30 and succeeded in increasing the number of graduate students from 30 in 1966 to about 80 in 1981. His efforts laid the groundwork for the construction of the first additional building for the department, a building dedicated to research.

Those colleagues who joined the department during the era of rapid growth credit Clifford's vision with helping them establish their careers at Virginia Tech and with enabling the department to develop the reputation it now enjoys.