One West Salem native is about to have his name etched in the history of Eastern Kentucky University forever.

Dr. John Meisenheimer was amongst the first to be awarded the status of Iconic Professor at the university. Meisenheimer will additionally see his name placed on a chemistry laboratory in the institution’s new, and quite large, College of Science Building.

Meisenheimer was a professor of chemistry at the university from 1963 until his retirement in 1999. He was awarded the title of Iconic Professor due to feedback provided by his former students.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Meisenheimer explained. “I’ve been retired for 20 years, and to think that the (former) students have these nice things to say about me (is humbling).”

But his career as a university professor was not part of Meisenheimer’s first plan upon graduation. Initially upon receiving his PhD in organic and medicinal chemistry, he believed he would be doing a very different kind of work before he ended up in the teaching profession.

“I thought I’d be going to work for a drug company working on anti-cancer agents, but the government had done something and all of the drug companies had stopped hiring,” he recalled. “I was married and had two kids; I had to get a job!”

It was through his research director at Indiana University that Meisenheimer was able to find his way to EKU.

“He called all around, and he remembered talking to this professor down in Kentucky,” Meisenheimer remembered. “He contacted them, and they said they needed somebody with my background.

“It turned out, it could not have been a better place.”

Much as his students have remembered him fondly after so many years, Meisenheimer looks back on those he taught with that same fondness.

“My students were very often the first ones in their families to go to college,” he recalled. “They were there to learn and make something of themselves.

“And most of the people I worked with were hardworking.”

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.