• F. Fleming Crim ’69
    F. Fleming Crim ’69
    Carlos Barron

One of his colleagues says in his position with the NSF, Crim is “having a profound impact on humanity by helping set the direction of science research in our country, much of which will someday lead to new technologies and all of which is advancing our fundamental understanding of nature.”

Crim is also the John E Willard and Hilldale Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he has been a faculty member for more than 38 years. A colleague shares that during his time at UW-Madison, “Fleming has developed one of the world’s leading research programs in chemical dynamics, thoroughly reorganized the structure of the chemistry department, served as one of its very best teachers and mentors, and helped guide undergraduate chemistry education throughout the United States.”

On the international stage of chemical dynamics, Crim “ranks among the wisest and most productive leaders, pioneering unique experiments to probe the elementary microscopic steps in chemical reactions, as well as helping guide this field for more than three decades. And, the university has presented him with numerous awards over the years, including the Hilldale Award in the Physical Sciences in 2010 for his “remarkable insights into the clockwork of molecules, for his selfless leadership and dedication, and for his extraordinary teaching.”

His colleague says, “Like the leader of a great choir, Fleming can wield a baton (a laser baton in this case) and make molecules sing and dance and even fall apart. But the key question has been, ‘Can we shatter them selectively, picking out one chemical bond among many and breaking it at will?’ Most scientists steadfastly declared that this was impossible … until Fleming actually did it, and did it again and again…”

Crim is also well-known for being meticulous. A colleagues says, “From his scientific research to the way he runs a department meeting, everything he does is carefully thought through with the best interests of all in mind. He has a knack for seeing the complexities of problems, and finding the right path forward.”

He is also known as much as a role model as he is for his scientific accomplishments. One of his mentees says Crim is thoughtful, energetic and cares deeply about his colleagues. “Fleming is a person many people turn to for advice, because he is a clear thinker. When I first moved to Madison, he told me to ‘embrace the winter’ and now I am a pond hockey player.”

Another colleague Crim has mentored for more than 25 years agrees, “He has the highest integrity and wisdom. If you want to know what is the right thing to do in a complex and unambiguous situation, you should consult Fleming!”

As a Southwestern student and chemistry major, Crim worked in then Professor of Chemistry Bob Soulen’s research lab for several years and even summers. Soulen recalls, “Everything Fleming did, he did well. He was destined to succeed in whatever field of science he chose, and ultimately he chose to be a ‘real chemist’ eager to explore the vast vistas of chemistry. It was an honor to work with him.”

Described as not only a brilliant scholar, mentor, teacher and leader, but also as personable, caring and ever-the-gentleman, Crim “sets a brilliant example of someone who upholds the highest standards for teaching, research and service,” says a colleague. “His presence in our department shapes its entire culture, and as a result, people like me try to follow in his footsteps.”

For his numerous professional accomplishments and for the fact that he is the only Southwestern University student or faculty member to gain membership into the National Academy of Science, The Association of Southwestern University Alumni is proud to present F. Fleming Crim with its prestigious Medal of Honor. The Association presents this award to alumni whose accomplishments are regarded as rare and important.