Professor Brad Mundy Honored with Memorial Lecture

Natural Sciences8 MIN READ

The Chemistry Department recognizes transformative contributions of the recently deceased professor

Miselis Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus Brad Mundy (left) in 2009 with his former student Kevin Rice '96, now an associate professor of chemistry at Colby. Mundy, who passed away in 2023, is being honored by the Chemistry Department.
By Laura Meader
April 15, 2024

Chris Mundy remembers a day 20 years ago when he was visiting his parents. A knock came to the door. The neighbor boy was looking for his father, Brad Mundy, who had helped him with his science project.

“Apparently, the project was a grand success,” recalled Chris Mundy, who shared the story to illustrate the breadth of connections Brad Mundy made throughout his life. Brad Mundy, Colby’s Miselis Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, died Dec. 30, 2023, at his home in Oakland, Maine. He was 85.

Respect and appreciation for Mundy is widespread, including at Colby, where he taught from 1992 to 2002. In his memory, Colby’s Chemistry Department recently established the Brad Mundy Memorial Lecture, to be given annually.

“We wish to honor and remember Brad Mundy for his pivotal role in transforming the Colby Chemistry Department into a national leader in undergraduate teaching and research,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry and Co-Chair Rebecca Conry on behalf of the department. “In addition, we wish to recognize the inspiration that he provided for all who knew him in terms of his dedication to teaching, the unwavering support he had for his students and colleagues, plus his infectious sense of humor.” 

Chris Mundy in front of the classroom presenting a lecture
Chris Mundy, a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, delivers the first lecture in a new lecture series from the Chemistry Department named in honor of the late Brad Mundy, the Miselis Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, and Chris’s father. This is the first named lecture series the department has established. (Photo by Gabe Souza)

Chris Mundy, a physical chemist and laboratory fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, delivered the inaugural lecture April 12, 2024, to a room full of students, faculty, friends, and alumni. Mundy was introduced by Kevin Lucio-Acero ’24 and Alex Roth ’24, who received the Chemistry Department’s Bradford P. Mundy Excellence in Organic Chemistry Award in 2024 and 2023 respectively.

“It’s a really nice gesture for Colby Chemistry to honor him in this way as recognition of all the hard work he put into building that department,” said Chris Mundy. “It just feels right, and I think [my father] would be excited about this.”

Enthusiasm for science

Born in 1938, Brad Mundy graduated from high school in Schenectady, N.Y., and earned a bachelor’s in chemistry in 1961 from the State University of New York at Albany, where he was also certified in secondary education. He earned his doctorate in chemistry in 1965 from the University of Vermont.

Mundy moved to the University of California, Berkeley for post-doctoral work and served as a research associate in the university’s Lawrence Radiation Laboratory for a year before being named a Postdoctoral NIH Fellow in 1966.

“Brad’s leadership truly changed the tone of our department and improved our best practices, not just in scholarship, but also concerning the mentorship of Colby students in research.”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Kevin Rice ’96

His career in teaching and research began at Montana State University in Bozeman, where Mundy spent 26 years as a professor, department head, and acting associate dean of letters and science for one year. Chris Mundy and his two sisters, Ellen and Jill, came of age in Bozeman, immersed in the campus environment. Chris Mundy worked in the labs and was part of the chemistry department’s fabric, discovering that science included community—and a lot of fun.

“My father’s enthusiasm for science was certainly notable,” said Chris Mundy. “He demonstrated that enthusiasm was part of the scientific method.”

At Montana State, Brad Mundy received numerous awards, including the Phi Kappa Phi Distinguished Teaching Award and the Wiley Research Award for Meritorious Research. Throughout his career, he published several chemistry textbooks and more than 100 journal articles, including some coauthored with Colby alumni. He was a longtime member of the American Chemical Society.

Mundy also wanted the best opportunities for his students. In 1988 he spent a year as a program officer at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., to learn about the system and inform his colleagues how to write and successfully win grants. When he left Montana for Maine, it was one of the many skills he would draw on.

Chris Mundy talking with people after presenting the Brad Mundy Memorial Lecture.
Chris Mundy, a physical chemist and laboratory fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, spent a day on Mayflower Hill, having lunch with students, connecting with his father’s colleagues, and delivering the inaugural Brad Mundy Memorial Lecture. (Photo by Gabe Souza)

Transforming Colby Chemistry

Colby was able to hire a scholar and professor of Mundy’s stature in 1992 because of a gift from Frank and Theodora Miselis, who wanted to endow a science position at Colby. Frank Miselis would have graduated from Colby in 1943 but was drafted into World War II and allowed to go directly into medical school upon discharge. He became a successful physician and gave back to Colby by endowing the Miselis Professorship of Chemistry, with Mundy as the first recipient.

“It was clear that the endowed position allowed us to recruit an exceptional pool of senior applicants. Brad was the best of the best,” said Whitney King, the current Miselis Professor of Chemistry. “He had a long history of exceptional teaching, administrative experience at NSF, and a strong record of externally funded research. These skills translated directly to his success at Colby.”

When Mundy arrived on Mayflower Hill, the senior faculty were not actively pursuing research, the facilities were outdated, and the research infrastructure was poor, said King. Mundy had the “enthusiasm, perseverance, and external credibility” to earn the trust of then-Dean of Faculty Bob McArthur, who wanted to improve the sciences. With Mundy at the helm, Colby Chemistry embarked on a decade of growth. “He changed the institutional attitude toward what was possible,” said King.

Kevin Rice ’96 worked for Mundy as an undergraduate chemistry major. Ten years later, Rice followed in his mentor’s footsteps and returned to Colby as a professor. Rice models his teaching style after Mundy’s, which centered on students researching answers to real-world questions.

Frank Favaloro '96 and Brad Mundy in the lab circa mid-1990s
Frank Favaloro ’96 and then-Miselis Professor of Chemistry Brad Mundy in the laboratory, circa mid-1990s.

“Brad’s leadership truly changed the tone of our department and improved our best practices, not just in scholarship, but also concerning the mentorship of Colby students in research,” said Rice, now an associate professor of chemistry. “Graduates from our department are consistently met with high-level post-graduate success.”

Among those graduates is Frank Favaloro ’96, who appreciated Mundy’s high expectations and good nature. “He always taught classes with no more than a brief outline on a single note card—it was all in his head. He possessed what seemed to us encyclopedic knowledge but at the same time had a light-hearted manner that made him completely approachable.” 

Favaloro remembers Mundy using only chalk in class and wearing a lab coat every day. “He would say Mrs. Mundy would kill him if he got chalk all over his clothes,” he added. Brad Mundy was an exceptional artist with colored chalk, who made three-dimensional molecules come alive on two-dimensional chalkboards. His drawings of named organic reactions would become the basis of a 2005 textbook he coauthored with Michael G. Ellerd and Favaloro. As a graduate student, Favaloro practiced drafting more sophisticated reactions based on Mundy’s drawings that eventually led to the textbook.

Now a director in the oligo synthesis and process development group at Wave Life Sciences, Favaloro internalized Mundy’s positive attitude and models it with his students and fellow lab mates. What lingers most for Favaloro, however, is Mundy’s smile. “It showed you he recognized what you had just accomplished and it was appreciated. It was genuine and encouraging. It made you smile, too, and come back for more. Through glistening eyes, I’m smiling now at the memory.”  

A good life

Brad Mundy’s life was equal parts family, fun, and chemistry, said his son.

For most of his time at Colby, Mundy and his wife, Margaret, served as faculty residents on campus. They provided an impressive amount of programming and support for students fortunate to live in their residence hall.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else from them,” said Chris Mundy. “They loved the university vibe and community. It says something notable about my father, who at my age (in his late 50s) enjoyed eating dining hall food with his students. Most people want to go home at five. That wasn’t him.”

Brad Mundy and his wife, Margaret, laughing with friends over lunch.
Brad Mundy lived a life that was equal parts family, fun, and chemistry, said his son. Brad Mundy’s wife, Margaret, is to his right.

In retirement, Brad and Margaret Mundy bought a home on Great Pond in Oakland, where people gathered to partake in good food, friendship, and conversation. The outpouring of support following his death and the Brad Mundy Memorial Lecture at Colby are testaments to his character, generosity, and influence.

“His body of work was not just scientific,” concluded Chris Mundy. “A big part of his legacy is his impact on humans.”      


Brad Mundy leaves his wife of 60 years, Margaret, three children, six grandchildren, and four siblings. Readers can leave comments and read a full obituary here.