Professor Emeritus Dana Mayo, who taught chemistry at Bowdoin for over 25 years, died in his home in Topsham on Saturday. Mayo was internationally known as a leader in infrared (IR) spectroscopy, a researcher in oil pollution and a pioneer in the development of microscale lab techniques used in teaching chemistry. He was known at Bowdoin as a community member through and through.

Mayo came to Bowdoin in 1962, attracted by its location in Maine. He went on Outing Club trips in the 60s and 70s with his colleague and friend Samuel S. Butcher, also a professor emeritus of chemistry. The two, along with Professor Ronald Pike of Merrimack College, worked together to develop microscale techniques for undergraduates. 

“Our kids were nearly the same age, so that kind of bonds people together,” said Butcher in a phone interview with the Orient. “He was a very easy person to get along with.”

Mayo came to Bowdoin following seven years of service in the U.S. Air Force and two years as a fellow at MIT’s School for Advanced Study. He earned his Ph.D at Indiana University.

“One thing that really stands out in my view, in terms of contribution, was the microscale [lab technique development]. That impacted chemistry far beyond Bowdoin,” said Butcher.

The new laboratory techniques were designed to use smaller quantities of chemicals in order to reduce health risks, environmental damage and cost.

“[Mayo] was excited while finding new ways to do dozens and dozens of reactions that had been carried out for a long time at a large scale. And all of those had to be boiled down to something much smaller,” said Butcher. “He was very inventive in doing that. He brought a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm.”

Designing lab experiments to create only a drop of a chemical—as opposed to a tablespoon—was, according to Butcher, something previously only done in research lab settings. 

“It was a tremendous job to come up with those methods and applications, make adjustments, and also convince other chemistry lab instructors that indeed it could be done,” said Butcher. “When we started, I think a lot of chemistry faculty just threw up their hands and said, ‘How can you do this with 18-year olds?’ They just thought it was impossible.” 

His microscale organic chemistry curriculum was adopted by more than 400 colleges and universities in the United States.

“[He was] someone who devoted himself entirely to the benefit of his students, of his colleagues, of the faculty and making Bowdoin a better college,” said President Clayton Rose in a phone interview with the Orient.

Mayo’s work was recognized not just at the College itself but beyond Bowdoin as well.

With his team of Butcher and Pike, Mayo won the first Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Higher Education in 1986 and the 1987 American Chemical Society Health and Safety Award. With Pike, he also won the 1988 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievements in Teaching Chemistry by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. In addition, Mayo individually received a National Catalyst Award from the Chemical Manufacturers Association in 1989.

At Bowdoin, Mayo and Butcher were awarded the Bowdoin Prize, the College’s highest honor, according to Rose. The two are the only non-alumni who have received the award.

Mayo’s wife, O. Jeanne d’Arc Mayo, former Bowdoin physical therapist and athletic trainer, survives him, along with his two sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.