Back to Top
Top Nav content Site Footer
University Home

Archive Research Center

University Honors

Professor and Chairman, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Professor Emeritus



Dr. John A. McLean, Jr. was born November 8, 1926, in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, the son of John and Anna McLean. The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 and School Segregation in the South impacted his childhood education because there were no schools for Blacks in the rural area where he lived. His parents sent him to live with relatives in another county to begin to deal with this problem. He excelled in academics and sports and was given a football scholarship to Tennessee State University upon completion of his K-12 education. He received his B.S. in chemistry in 1948 and began teaching and coaching basketball in the Brookport, Illinois school district. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict and upon his discharge he enrolled in the University of Illinois.


During his tenure as a student at the University of Illinois he was elected to three Honor Societies: Phi Delta Kappa (Education), Phi Lambda Upsilon (Chemistry) and Sigma Xi (Science). He married the late Esther Bush in 1958 and three children were born to that union. He received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry in 1959 and joined the staff of the University of Detroit as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry.


The next thirty-five years were spent as a faculty member at the University of Detroit (now U of D Mercy). He rose through the ranks to Full Professor, was Chairman of the Department from 1983 to 1993, and directed the Thesis research of 21 MS students, the Dissertation research of 16 PhD students and mentored the research of a number of undergraduates. He was instrumental in the development of a remedial course in chemistry for under-prepared students who wished to pursue scientific careers. He was successful in obtaining funding for several federally funded Summer Workshops for Public and Private K-12 Science Teachers in the Detroit Metropolitan Area.


While serving as a faculty member he was awarded an Atomic Energy Commission Research Fellowship to do research at the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University in 1965. In 1992 he was also invited to give a number of lectures in the Ralph H. Metcalfe, Sr. Lecture Series at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The students and faculty of U of D Mercy honored Professor McLean by selecting him for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research in 1986. The International Students Organization voted him to be the Outstanding Faculty Member for International Services in 1992. In 1965 the U of D Chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta (the premedical honor society) selected him as the aTeacher of the Year.


Dr. McLean served the University of Detroit on many key committees including the President’s Task Force on Equal Educational Opportunity for Minorities, the Insignis Scholarship Award, and the Graduate Program Review.


Among the many awards and recognitions received by Dr. McLean were the Leo Bush Memorial Award (1965) from the U. of D. chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta to the faculty member voted most prominent in pre-medical and pre-dental education; a Community Service Award from Wayne County Community College (1977); an American Chemical Society Certificate for Outstanding Leadership of their Detroit chapter (1982); also, the Annual Distinguished Service Award from the Detroit chapter of the American Chemical Society (1985); and the University of Detroit’s President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research (1986).


In addition to his many responsibilities at the University of Detroit, Dr. McLean worked to promote education as a member of the Michigan State Board for Public Community and Junior Colleges (1965-81); a member of the Michigan Council of Post-Secondary Education (1968-78); and as chairman of the Community College Task Force, established in 1976 by the Michigan state senate to define the mission and role of Michigan’s community colleges, as well as design an equitable funding formula for the state’s community college system.


Dr. McLean also served on many professional organizations: the Optical Society of America and Society of Applied Spectroscopy, where he served variously as secretary, vice chairman, and chairman, as well as book review editor of the Journal of Applied Spectroscopy; the American Chemical Society; and the American Executive Committee of the Conference on Improving International Cooperation in Science.


Professor McLean is an Emeritus member and 50-year member of the American Chemical Society (ACS). He held many offices in the Local Section of the (1500 member) Detroit Section of the ACS. He served as Chairman of Local Section in 1981. In 1982, the National Office cited Professor McLean for his outstanding leadership and outstanding performance by a Local Section of the ACS.


Dr. McLean retired in 1994 and on January 13, 1995, Sr. Maureen A. Fay, O.P., Ph.D., President of University of Detroit Mercy conferred the title of Professor Emeritus upon Professor McLean. The citation reads: You are an outstanding teacher, have given generously of your time to aid and mentor hundreds of students, and have been totally committed to the University.

In 2000, supported by UDM faculty and friends, the endowed John A. McLean Scholarship was established in his honor.

University of Detroit Mercy

Back to Top