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Gufrey Named Among America’s Top Undergraduate Professors

Published: May 1, 2012

Thomas Gufrey, a long-time chemistry lecturer at CSULB, has been named one of America’s top undergraduate professors by The Princeton Review in its newest guidebook The Best 300 Professors, which was released in April.

Published in partnership with RateMyProfessors.com—the highest-trafficked college professor ratings site in the United States—The Best 300 Professors profiles outstanding faculty at 122 colleges. According to The Princeton Review, all of the professors won high praise from their most important audiences—the undergrad students they teach and inspire, class after class, year after year, in fields that range from ancient studies to neuroscience to sport management.

An educator for more than 40 years, Gufrey has taught at CSULB for the last 35 years and much of that time has been spent teaching one course—Chemistry 100. According to his “professor profile” in the guidebook, “…he looks for students whose love of chemistry is buried so deep inside them, they don’t know they have it.” He says his job is to “un-bury” that love of chemistry.

“There are many people more deserving than I, but it is still a very nice honor to receive,” Gufrey said of his selection among the Best 300 Professors. “It is an honor to work with young kids. I try to show them how neat chemistry is in today’s world, and I try to treat them with dignity and decency. The truth is, I get to do a job that I love to do, and being an old geezer like I am, it is great being around young people.”

His professor profile states: “In his legendary demonstrations, he uses humor, songs and poems, and treats students with respect. And, he says, ‘Frankly, I make it very easy to do well if students show up and really try. It’s half chemistry, logic, and critical thinking but half of it is appreciating how important chemistry is.’ He has taught for more than 40 years, and he is constantly soliciting student input and bringing in stories from everyday breakthroughs in chemistry.”

“He is a great instructor, very entertaining,” said Kris Slowinski, chair of the CSULB Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. “Tom has been here for many, many years. He’s very interactive, a good showman, and he is very popular among the students. He is truly enthusiastic about chemistry and that’s very important.”

His profile also includes comments from students who describe him as a “real goofball” who is “big on explosions” and awards bonus points to students for all sorts of contributions. The students say he is “extremely caring and fun and just loves life.” Said one student: “All you have to do is show up and make an effort.”

Gufrey admits that he is obsessed with chemistry, and that fact comes through in his demonstrations. He also said that humor is very, very important when it comes to helping students learn chemistry as is getting them involved them in the subject. At the same time, though, he said he tries to teach students a little about life in general and what he thinks is important.

Thomas Gufrey
PHOTO BY VICTORIA SANCHEZ
Professor Thomas Gufrey during a controlled demonstration in his lab. Clearly, don’t do this at home.

“First, I try to tell them that being a decent human being is the most important thing. That is really what matters to me in life. It’s not what fame you get, or money or power, but treating your fellow human beings decently,” Gufrey explained. “Second, I think everyone in class should appreciate how lucky we are to be in this country with the opportunities it gives us. At the end of the day, we are all so blessed to enjoy the precious freedoms that, frankly, most of the world doesn’t have.”

The Princeton Review selected the professors in the book based on qualitative and quantitative data from survey findings and ratings collected by both organizations. In addition to the professor profiles, The Best 300 Professors includes profiles of colleges at which one or more of the book’s top-notch professors teach. The school profiles give students considering attending these colleges information on admissions, tuition, SAT/ACT score ranges of admitted students, and other useful data.

“We developed this project as a tribute to the extraordinary dedication of America’s undergraduate college professors and the vitally important role they play in our culture, and our democracy,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s senior vice president/publisher. “One cannot page through this book without feeling tremendous respect for the powerful ways these teachers are enriching their students’ lives, their colleges, and ultimately our future as a society.”

More information on The Best 300 Professors can be found on The Princeton Review website.

–Rick Gloady