Solomon Marmor (1926-2010): Founding Chemistry Professor Helped Establish Original Watt Campus
Dr. Solomon Marmor, emeritus professor of chemistry, died last week at the age of 84 from injuries sustained from a recent fall. The Seattle resident was a member of the founding faculty of California State University, Dominguez Hills from 1966 to 1985.
“Our original faculty had an incredible variety of people, not only in academic disciplines, but in personality,” says Judson Grenier, emeritus professor of history (1966–1992). “Sol was an instant leader, but one with a wry sense of humor that often brought us back to reality or poured calm over troubled waters. He was simply someone with whom it was a lot of fun to work, and he was sharp as hell. He always smiled when exposing our foibles.”
Virginia Knauss (Class of ’84, B.S., biology), a former student and semi-retired department secretary for the chemistry, biochemistry, earth sciences and physics departments, had Marmor as her organic chemistry professor.
“He was a marvelous, upbeat person with a wonderful sense of humor,” she says. “He was an excellent teacher.”
Emeritus professor of chemistry George Wiger says, “Here’s how I will remember Sol: A full life, well lived.”
In a 2005 interview by Grenier, Marmor recalled his arrival at what was then California State College, Dominguez Hills, when the campus was moved from its original site in Palos Verdes to the Watt Campus in Carson.
“My wife and I arrived in the summer of 1966, just in time to help move the college from Palos Verdes,” Marmor said. “I volunteered our services to transporting some of the delicate instruments owned by the chemistry department, and my wife carried the glass-encased analytical balance on her lap as I drove very slowly to Victoria Street. The balance, and we, survived intact.”
Solomon Marmor was born on Feb. 25, 1926, in New York City and grew up in the Bronx. He earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from City College of New York and his doctorate in organic chemistry from Syracuse University. His first job was as a research chemist for Buffalo Electro Chemical Company (BECCO), FMC Corporation from 1952 to 1956.
Marmor decided to give up private industry in favor of academics and began his teaching career at Utica College as an assistant professor of chemistry. He also taught at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M. from 1962 to 1966, where he served as head of the chemistry department before arriving at CSU Dominguez Hills in 1966.
During his career at CSU Dominguez Hills, Marmor served as acting dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (now the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences), chair of the chemistry department, and coordinator of interdepartmental programs. He was also the author of four textbooks: “General and Biological Chemistry” (1961, W.B. Saunders Co.); “Laboratory Guide for Organic Chemistry” (1964, D.C. Heath and Company); “Laboratory Methods in Organic Chemistry” (1981, Burgess Publishing Company); and “Organic Chemistry: A Brief Course” (1987, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
Professor of chemistry Dr. Sofia Pappatheodorou joined the CSU Dominguez Hills faculty in 1985 just as Marmor began participating in the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) and teaching a reduced course load. She remembers him for his kindness to her as a junior member of the chemistry faculty, which at that time was a male-dominated field, and as a staunch supporter of the university’s Science Society. She says that later generations knew of the founding faculty member through her continued—and continuing—use of “Laboratory Methods in Organic Chemistry,” and “Organic Chemistry: A Brief Course.”
“He was stern but he was genuine,” says Pappatheodorou. “He led [students] through the understanding of ‘why it was that way.’ When I previously taught at Cal State Fresno, my colleagues said that Marmor’s lab book was the best in the nation. He didn’t ‘feed’ the students information; he was actually training them to ‘fish.’”
Jonathan Marmor (Class of ’79, B.A., communications) remembers being on the Watt campus with his father.
“The original campus was an apartment building across Victoria Street from the current campus,” he recalls. “My father used to take me to his lab there all the time. The land that is home to the current campus used to be a big, empty field.”
Dr. Marmor is survived by sons Jonathan and Jason (Class of ’89, M.A., public history and historic preservation), daughters-in-law Lisa and Fran, and six grandchildren. Marmor's wife of 54 years, Lynne Marmor, died in 2008.
Details for a memorial service are pending. Messages of condolence may be sent to Jonathan Marmor, 2505 NE 137th St.. Seattle, WA. 98125.
- Joanie Harmon