Lab manuals don’t usually outlive a second edition, let alone six. But that’s exactly what PLNU emeriti chemistry professors Drs. Vic Heasley and Val Christensen and Dr. Gene Heasley emeritus professor at Southern Nazarene University have achieved.
In 2012, the sixth edition of their introductory chemistry lab manual, Chemistry and Life in the Laboratory, was published. This lab manual has been in the making and remaking for more than 30 years. Vic Heasley and Christensen began working together in 1963. At that time, the lab manuals in circulation were “inadequate,” according to Vic. Thus, the two PLNU professors joined forces with Vic’s brother Gene, also a chemist, and began creating their own manual that would benefit the students and the professors.
“So many lab manuals seemed an afterthought of the textbook, but ours was on purpose,” said Christensen.
The chemists sought student feedback and even paid students out of their own pockets to test their experiments. They wanted to be sure the manual would be easy for students to use and effective for teaching the basics of chemistry.
Their hard work paid off, and the manual’s first edition was published in 1978. The sales for the lab manual remained profitable, so the Heasleys and Christensen were asked by their publisher to submit a second edition. A larger publishing company bought out the original publisher, and because sales were still strong, the duo was asked to create a third edition. This trend continued as Prentice Hall and finally Pearson – two of the leading educational publishing companies in the nation – bought out the previous publishers of the manual.
Every new edition called for revision and new emphases, so the Heasleys and Christensen continued to invest significant amounts of time and energy to each new publication. Some editions required new emphases on safety issues or teaching methods, others needed smaller amounts of chemical measurements for less waste disposal and fewer lab expenses. Because of more recent concerns for the environmental impact of science, the latest edition “needed to put an environmental emphasis on the entire book,” said Heasley. This edition took a year to revise. “Environment, Culture, and Chemistry” sections were added after most chapters. Currently, this is the only lab manual in the country with this feature. However, new manuals will most likely be required to include similar information, meaning the Heasleys and Christensen’s work will be a model for others once again.
Because of their dedication to excellence, Chemistry and Life in the Laboratory has had a longer life span than its competitors. Christensen retired in 1996 after working for 37 years at PLNU, teaching chemistry and later serving as an associate dean and then dean. He previously spent eight years working for Dow Chemical Company, an industrial research company. Heasley retired this May after working at PLNU for 50 years (see article on page 47).
Christensen said of Heasley, “He graduated with a Ph.D. and spent his entire professional career in one place; he is a prolific publisher, father of student research, has worked with over 150 students, and has co-authored research journal articles with many of those students – that’s the kind of impact one person can have.”
These two men were leaders in building up the sciences at PLNU. Today, PLNU is a thriving, competitive research center with outstanding individuals and team members. Others, like Dr. Dale Shellhammer, were also vital influences. Together, these professors have influenced the lives of many students.
When asked what impact students have had on them, Heasley said, “They become your best friends. Students are like colleagues, it’s a wonderful relationship.”