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In Memoriam: J. Brown Goehring, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus W&L’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter named the Phi Beta Kappa J. Brown Goehring Sophomore Award in his honor.

goehring-photo-EDIT-600x400 In Memoriam: J. Brown Goehring, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus

J. Brown Goehring, professor of chemistry emeritus at Washington and Lee University, died on March 7, 2024. He was 88.

Goehring was born in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area to J. Lindsay and Dorothy B. Goehring. He attended Davidson College and was the valedictorian of the class of 1956. He earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a dissertation on “A Light-Scattering Investigation of Aggregation in Aqueous Solutions of Sodium Molybdate.”

Goehring joined the W&L faculty in 1963 as an associate professor of chemistry and earned full professorship in 1970. He taught instrumental analysis and advanced inorganic chemistry, as well as introductory classes in the field, for 38 years before retiring from W&L in 2001. In 1969-70, he completed a National Science Foundation fellowship at UCLA.

He also spent 22 of those 38 years at W&L serving as the secretary/treasurer for the university’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter. He did it all alone: collected dues, paid bills and organized grades for elections and paperwork for the national office. He mentored more than 700 students during his time, and in 2009, the chapter named the Phi Beta Kappa J. Brown Goehring Sophomore Award in his honor. This award is given to the student with the highest academic average during their first four terms at W&L.

“He truly exemplifies Phi Beta Kappa at Washington and Lee,” said then chapter president Marcia France, former professor of chemistry, in a Columns article. “He is responsible for the high level of organization at which our chapter continues to function. Professor Goehring was, and remains to this day, the institutional memory of Phi Beta Kappa at W&L.”

Outside of his academic career, Goehring loved composing music, a passion he discovered during a prolonged illness as a child. Initially, the shapes of musical notes intrigued him, only to be amplified when he learned to play the piano and interpret those “strange shapes.” He created a full-length musical play, “Isadora,” in high school, experimented with marches and waltzes in college, and composed children’s pieces with the arrival of his daughters and son. He frequently accompanied operettas, campus musicals, the Lexington Presbyterian Church Sunday school, the Lexington area drama programs and assisted-living events. On top of this, he loved photography and cultivated a stamp collection.

Goehring is survived by his daughters, Patricia Goehring and Dorothy Goehring-Somalwar, son, Alexander Goehring, and three grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Ouida Goehring.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. March 23 at Harrison Funeral Home in Lexington, Virginia. The graveside service will be private for the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA), at 350 Spotswood Drive, Lexington, VA 24450.

Goehring’s full obituary was published by The News-Gazette.