In early March, a man left his Oak Harbor home to walk his dog. During that stroll, he slipped, fell, hit his head, and passed away. The world lost a renowned scientist, and Sound Water Stewards lost a valued champion of our Values and Mission. He was Dr. Mahmoud Abdel-Monem who informed hundreds of Stewards as to “The Problem with Plastics” incorporating the chemistry, the industry, and the use of this material. We were the recipients of his expertise derived from his long, illustrious career in chemistry. After receiving his Bachelor of Science from Cairo University in Egypt, a scholarship brought him to the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. He distinguished his tenure at that University as a faculty member, department administrator, and researcher.
In time, he became Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Washington State University, a position he held until his retirement in 1998 as Professor and Dean Emeritus. The Abdel-Monem Endowed Scholarship in Pharmacy was established in his honor to recognize his contribution and legacy in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Throughout his career, he received awards and recognition for his innovative teaching strategies, his significant contributions to scientific research, his active involvement in countless professional organizations, as editor of The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, as a scientific consultant to industrial firms, and as holder of over 25 U.S. patents.
Following the same dedication in his professional life, in retirement Dr. Monem shared his cumulative knowledge, expertise, and his inherent wisdom with Sound Water Stewards as a Volunteer Education and Training and Sound Waters University presenter, in addition to volunteering as a member of the Beach Watcher Class of 2007. His presentations will be remembered as comprehensive, enriching, and impactful due to his carefully sequenced overview of plastics that addressed the consumer choices we make that affect our health and the health of the environment. His instruction was clear-eyed, pragmatic, and forthright, cemented with respect for his audience, connective storytelling, and an easeful playfulness that revealed his subtle sense of humor. During a recent lecture and after patiently answering numerous questions concerning mercury in fish, a student asked him what fish he ate. “Oh, I don’t eat fish,” he answered with that characteristic twinkle in his eye.
His generosity of time was exceptional as exhibited in his offer to clarify any quandaries via his personal email and by his proposal to return to Whidbey Island for a scheduled presentation and then return to the mid-west where he had an unexpected family commitment. In spending time with Dr. Monem, we were fortunate beyond measure. Amid our sadness, we can be awash in appreciation for all we learned from this treasure of a man.
Written with affection by Lee Badovinus, 2021 and 2022 VETC Lead, Class of 2018
Dr. Monem’s last recorded lecture for SWS is here (you must be logged in as a member to watch the lecture).