College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Chemistry professor has only fond memories of teaching

Kwang S. Yun, an award-winning retired chemistry professor who taught at UM for 30 years, is known for his creative teaching methods and dedication to students. He received  the Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen awards from the College of Liberal Arts and the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

Originally from Seoul, Korea, Yun received a B.A. in chemistry from Seoul National University before serving in the Republic of Korea Army from 1953 to 1955 and earning a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1960. He joined the Department of Chemistry in 1968 and taught general chemistry, physical chemistry, and graduate courses in quantum chemistry and statistical thermodynamics.

“I had the great pleasure of teaching the freshman chemistry course,” Yun said. “Students in this class were mostly pre-med, pre-pharmacy or engineering students who were well motivated and eager to learn new and advanced concepts in chemistry. For more than 30 years of teaching this course, I have nothing but good memories.”

Yun has several memorable moments from the classroom.

“I gave weekly live demonstrations related to the subjects of the week,” he said. “Students enjoyed  the demonstrations, but I had a few embarrassing moments with burning hair, burning neckties, falling from ladders and so on.”

The effectiveness of Yun’s teaching is evident.

“More than 6,000 students passed through my freshman classes during my years of teaching, which generated many well-known doctors and pharmacists,” Yun said. “I see them often.”

Charles Hussey, the present chair of the chemistry department, was actually taught by Yun when he attended the university.

“When I was an undergraduate chemistry student, he was the first chemistry professor I took that made sense,” Hussey said. “He knew how to teach. When I was in his class, I was always very comfortable — he explained concepts like no one else.”

It was a high priority for Yun to successfully convey the material that he was teaching.

“I held weekly help sessions and enjoyed the recitations because it was a ‘free question-and-answer period’ where students felt comfortable asking any questions,” he said. “Because my main interest in teaching was to provide students knowledge and excitement in science, I always approached students not in terms of my level of understanding but at the student’s level. I used to say to myself, ‘If a student does not comprehend an idea, it is my fault and not the student’s.’”

Yun retired in May 1998 from the university and lives in Oxford.