Don Cass


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi, after 37 years of teaching at College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar Harbor Maine, I’m moving on to whatever comes next. After a week exploring various towns in Colorado, and loving its springtime warmth and sun, we’ve leased an apartment in Fort Collins for a year while we explore and maybe find something more our style (think rustic post & beam)…

By training, I’m a physical chemist, but because COA is so small (~325 students) I got to teach all of the chemistry classes there. If COA had departments, I would have been ‘the chemistry department” – but that doesn’t quite fit – since faculty here try (or use to try) to wear ‘human ecologist’ hats as much as possible. Indeed, COA grants only one undergraduate degree, the B.A. in Human Ecology – the study of how humans interact with their worlds.

I came to COA  because I was interested in how chemistry can help us understand how our world impacts us and how we impact our world. I was (and am) interested in why we believe this odd notion that every “thing” (?) is made up of these little “atoms” bouncing to and fro – and in what this perspective DOESN’T explain and how it may evolve into something more useful. I’m interested in how this perspective can explain why you can see through windows and not walls. I’m interested how this perspective explains where the atmosphere and the oceans have come from – and where they go to.  And I’m interested in how this somewhat odd perspective can make us more responsible citizens.

To me, the latter includes becoming more aware:
* of the materials that we use,
* of the sources of those materials,
* of the impacts that the production, use and disposal of such materials has on our world, and
* of the impacts that such impacts, in turn, have on us.

Some of my current guiding principles include:
* nobody can do nothing
* the non-human world isn’t any kinder or more thoughtful than the human
* if you give them a chance, most people will try to do good things
* screw-ups are inevitable.
* so diversity is good in that it limits the impacts of any screw-ups..

I’m going to try to work more on this site now that I’m no longer teaching in the classroom. I hope to make materials that I’ve used in my classes available for others to use, and hope to add things like a place where we can ask each other about things that we don’t understand as well as we’d like to. So stay tuned!



  1. Hi Don! I don’t know if you remember me, but I do remember you. I was at Kenyon the two years you were there, and I had P-Chem class junior year with you. That was a great class, and whenever I get together at a reunion with Steve Bird or Sharon Lando or Tom Pappenhagen, we’ll talk about you, too. I’m glad to see you are still at the COA. I don’t know if you remember, but my wife and I dropped in to say hello to you there while we were on our honeymoon in August of 1979. You had just arrived there and were still settling in. At the time I believe it was just a visiting appointment, but you’ve obviously turned it into much more. As for me, to make a long story short, I retired in June of last year after teaching in the chemical engineering department at Ohio University in Athens for 22 years and working for NASA in Cleveland for six years prior to that. I hadn’t planned to retire this young, but various circumstances involving state budgets, university budgets, buyout offers, and lots of scenario analyses led to the decision. I now live in Las Cruces, New Mexico (another story), where I teach part time in the chemical engineering department here and also consult with one of the research groups here.

    Comment by Daniel Gulino — May 18, 2013 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  2. I watched your hour’s of stills & videos, from our amazing Grand Canyon Raft trip. WOW! I loved every second reliving our amazing experience. What terrific folks – guests & guides! Thank you for putting this together for everyone to enjoy. Enjoy your retirement & yournewhome state.
    Toni & Steve Dickover, Noblesville, Indiana

    Comment by Toni Dickover — September 4, 2017 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Don! Congrats on your retirement. I tried responding to your email with the information you requested, but it bounced back to me.

    Comment by Ginny — September 26, 2017 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

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