By William F. Carroll, Jr., Chair, ACS Green Chemistry Institute Advisory Board
For many readers, the name Nina McClelland will not be familiar. Nina passed away at the age of 90 on August 16. She had been an American Chemical Society activist for about 50 years prior to her passing, holding numerous committee and chair positions, including nine years on the ACS Board of Directors, of which three were spent as Chair of the Board. Nina recruited me into ACS governance, leading to my time on the Board of Directors, my term as Chair and my term as ACS President. I owe her a great personal debt.
But Nina was also a loud and staunch advocate for green chemistry. She came to that from an unusual place: The organization originally known as the National Sanitation Foundation, and now as just NSF International. Nina was NSF President for many years.
NSF is a standards organization; that is, it organizes technical panels and comes to a consensus on rules of the road for various aspects of modern technical life. Fire codes and electrical codes are examples of industrial standards. NSF’s expertise traditionally was in sanitation, and especially in drinking water, wastewater and plumbing. Today, their standards extend to personal care, animal care, home products and sustainability, as well.
For as long as I have known Nina, she has been passionate about the ability of standards to raise the quality and efficiency of modern life. At the same time, she was a passionate advocate for chemistry, and particularly safer, forward-looking chemistry as a means to enable modern life.
Let’s talk a little about the ancient history of the Green Chemistry Institute. In the 1990s, a man named Joe Breen played a major role at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in creating Design for the Environment and green chemistry, including the establishment of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in 1996. When Joe retired from EPA he established a not-for-profit known as the Green Chemistry Institute with support and sweat equity from colleagues in industry, government, academe and the national labs. In 1999, Joe Breen died. After Joe’s passing, the future of the Green Chemistry Institute was at risk.
Enter Daryle Busch: ACS President-Elect, 1999 and President, 2000. Professor Busch was an advocate of catalysis as a means to greener chemistry. He saw an opportunity to advance the field, put the Green Chemistry Institute on a solid footing, and involve ACS in a venture looking to the future of chemistry. He proposed to the ACS Board of Directors an alliance between GCI and ACS. Nina, also on the Board, agreed enthusiastically.
And thus, GCI became allied with ACS. That alliance has evolved over the past twenty years to where we find ourselves now: GCI is a part of the Division of Scientific Advancement of ACS, doing groundbreaking work on behalf of the field. But none of this would have happened without the prime movers, Daryle Busch and Nina McClelland.
As an inaugural member of the Governing Board for GCI in her role as Chair of the ACS Board of Directors, Nina played a crucial role in raising awareness of green chemistry among her Board colleagues and across the Society. She, along with Daryle Busch, articulated the importance of GCI in advancing sustainability across the chemistry enterprise. Early on, Nina recognized that a major opportunity for GCI was to bring the green chemistry message to ACS members.
Green chemistry lost a true champion and friend with the passing of Dr. Nina McClelland. For nearly two decades, she provided expert advice to GCI staff and Governing Board members. Her passion for achieving sustainability through the application of green chemistry helped advance ACS’ vision of “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” Her wisdom and common sense will be missed by all those whose paths she crossed. Her legacy of the Green Chemistry Institute as a part of ACS will continue to shape science and our Society well into the future.