Dr. Richard U. and Claire M. Byerrum Endowed Fellowship
Richard U. Byerrum was the first dean of the College of Natural Science at MSU, serving from 1962 until 1986. He was also an instructor and mentor for more than 40 years. Dr. Byerrum died September 28, 2008, at the age of 88.
Byerrum was raised in Warrenville, Illinois, and earned an A.B. in zoology and chemistry from Wabash College in 1942. He earned his Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1947 and an honorary doctorate from Wabash College in 1967.
A graduate student in biochemistry at the University of Illinois during World War II, Dick took a leave of his studies to become an employee of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. He worked in a Corps' laboratory at the University of Chicago.
Claire Somers, a business major, commuted to the University of Illinois from her nearby hometown and was a student worker in the Chemistry Department. She and Dick were married in Champaign on April 3, 1945.
After their wedding, Dr. Byerrum secured a position for Claire as a secretary for the Manhattan Project. The war ended that summer. A portion of Byerrum's Army work could be incorporated into his dissertation research, so he received his Ph.D. From the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1947.
Following his doctoral studies, Dick sought an academic career. Faculty at both Illinois and Chicago recognized the strong potential of Michigan State, and Dick and Claire felt that East Lansing would be a nice place to bring up a family.
Byerrum joined the faculty at Michigan State College in 1947. His research dealt with plant metabolism and he had a lab in North Kedzie Hall as part of the chemistry department. He was appointed Assistant Provost in 1959, yet maintained his research lab and funding into the early 1970's. Dr. Byerrum authored Experimental Biochemistry in 1956 and served as author or co-author of more than 90 abstracts, articles, book chapters, and book reviews for professional journals. He held four patents.
Mrs. Claire Byerrum survives and has established the Dr. Richard U. and Claire M. Byerrum Endowed Fellowship to aide the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in attracting or retaining outstanding graduate students.