Dr. Ronald R. Oetgen received the Simon Carson Wells medallion, presented to retiring members of the Roanoke College faculty, at commencement on Saturday, May 6, 2006. Oetgen has been a dedicated member of the chemistry faculty at the College for 39 years. The medallion is given in recognition of his years of service and is named to honor Wells, who taught at the Virginia Institute and Roanoke College for 51 years. He arrived in 1849 as the first Professor of Mathematics and Natural Sciences when the College borrowed $200 to purchase "chemical and philosophical apparatus".
Oetgen received his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in chemistry from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After a postdoctoral experience at the University of California at Berkeley, and a post-doctorial teaching stint at Denison University, Oetgen came to Roanoke College in the fall of 1967, and has been here ever since.
Oetgen is rightfully considered the “father” of biochemistry at Roanoke. He developed and taught the first two courses in biochemistry at Roanoke, and helped to develop the biochemistry major here. He also introduced a course in Nutritional Chemistry. He taught Chemistry 101 to some 4000 students over three generations. In total, he has taught more than 12,000 students in 300 courses over 39 years and has always considered himself a teacher first and foremost.
Oetgen worked tirelessly during his career at Roanoke to bring Roanoke’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa to campus. He has been instrumental in guiding numerous students to medical school, dental school, optometry, pharmacy and graduate school, both in individual conversations and as a member of our Health Professions Advisory Group.
Oetgen has been married for 43 years to Barbara, who taught kindergarten in Salem schools for many years. Now on the occasion of his retirement, the Roanoke College family wishes him happiness and good health during the next chapter of his life.