In Memory

Mr. Raymond T. Byrne (Teacher)

Mr. Raymond T. Byrne (Teacher)

Ex-Teacher Dies At 69

Raymond T. Byrne, 69,  of 256 East Avenue, an instructor in the City School District from September 1943 to June, 1973, died at 6:30 a.m., Monday, January 3, 1977 at Genesee Memorial Hospital. Death followed a short illness.

Mr. Byrne, who was head of the Batavia High School Science Department preceding his retirement, was born in North Adams, Mass, October 20. 1907, a son of William and Minnie Tandy Byrne.

He received his A.B. degree at State Teachers’ College at Albany in 1930, his masters’ degree at Cornell University  and attended summer science institutes at Union College, Harvard Medical School, the University of Denver, and Michigan State University.

In addition to regular teaching duties, in 1958-60, Mr. Byrne assisted Dr. John F. Baxter of the University of Florida in preparation of a  complete high school chemistry course on film sponsored in part by the American Chemical Society.

The following year, while on a leave from the City School District, he served as research assistant to Dr. Baxter on the National broadcasting company’s Continental Classroom’s “Modern Chemistry” television series.

He taught Chem Study, an advanced method of teaching chemistry to high school chemistry teachers in Poona, India and in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, Japan.

A member of the American Chemical Society, Mr. Byrne was also a member of the National Teachers Assn, the State Teachers Assn, the State Science Teachers Assn, and the Batavia Teachers Assn.

He was recipient of the American Chemical Society’s James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching sponsored by the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Inc. in 1967. The award was made to recognize, encourage and stimulate outstanding teachers of high school chemistry in the United States, its possessions and territories.

Mr. Byrne was a member of the First Baptist Church. His wife Elsie Snell Byrne, died in 1963.

Surviving are three daughters, Mrs. George (Jacqueline) Lamont of  Albion, and Mrs. Gerald (Sylvia) Pollack, and Mrs. Walter (Margaret) Swain, both of Seattle, WA.; a brother, Dr. Kenneth Byrne of North Carolina, a sister, Mrs. Mabel Lansing of Mechanicsville, and five grandchildren.

Friends may call at the H.E. Turner & Co. Mortuary from 7 to 8 tonight. Services will be at the First Baptist church at 5 P.M. Wednesday with the Rev. Robert F. Spencer, pastor, officiating. Interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the church.



Writing in her 1993 book, History of the City of Batavia, Librarian and Historian Ruth M. McEvoy states:

In April 1967 Raymond T. Byrne, then head of the science department at Batavia High School, was one of six science teachers from across the country to receive the James Bryant Conant Award from the American Chemical Society, The award included $1,000 in cash but it was much more than a monetary award. It acknowledged the many years the teachers had spent in learning how to make chemistry interesting and understandable to students. 

Raymond T. Byrne was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, on October 20, 1907 and he graduated in 1930 from the New York State Teacher's College in Albany, New York. In 1938 he received a master's degree from Cornell University. He came to teach in Batavia in the fall of 1943. He told a reporter for the Daily News in 1967 that while he was still in school he had found many of his text books not clearly written and had determined to develop demonstrations and experiments that would make science clear to his students. He spent many out-of-school hours developing his classroom processes and his lively manner and his good humor and patience made him known as an outstanding teacher in Batavia and across the state.  

In 1958 he joined Dr. John F. Baxter of the University of Florida in preparing a film that presents chemistry to the beginner in a lively and interesting manner. In 1959 the two men made a second film on modern methods of teaching chemistry. After the second film had been completed they were asked to present a series of half-hour television episodes to be filmed live for N.B.C's Continental Classroom. 

As a result of this television coverage Ray Byrne was asked to spend the summer of 1964 in Poona, India, as a consulting instructor for teachers in Indian schools. Two of his daughters went with him. In 1965 he repeated the course in Japan and in 1969 went to Iran where he spent the whole year of 1969-1970 as a consultant to teachers of chemistry in the schools of Iran.

Ray Byrne retired in 1975 and spent his first year of leisure travelling across the United States, then through Mexico and South America. He got as far south as Cuzco, Chile. He died in January 1977 at age 69.

Harriet Osborn Martin (BHS '61)

In 1969 Mr Byrne lectured in chemistry at a university in Ahwaz, Khuzistan, Iran.  I was told this when I went to renew a residency permit while working on a University of Chicago excavation at Choga Mish near Ahwaz.  The official dealing with such permits was delighted to see my USA passport and declared that he knew an American--taught Chemistry, name of Byrne, Ray Byrne...  He also said that by then (spring, 1970) Mr Byrne had moved on to Panama as I remember.   Harriet (Osborn) Martin

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01/13/15 11:10 AM #1    

Allen B Chatt

RTB, as he was know to his '65 students, was the most enthusiastic professor I've ever had ... and I've had a lot. Professor? Yes, easily as dedicated and knowledgeable about his field as any college, university, or medical school purveyor of esoteric information. He was 'a genius' at the high school level as indicated by his multiple honoraria and awards. Passed much too young!

02/16/15 03:12 PM #2    

Glenn F Corliss

Mr. Byrne was an extraordinary chemistry teacher.  His fundamentals were a great foundation for all the chemistry I took in college and used in my career.  Some how he got me a radioactive sample which I used in an experiment to measure half-life.  He helped me design the expt.  I guess it was safe because I never ended up glowing in the dark and I fathered normal children.  He got a little miffed when he taught an honors chemistry class that involved after school lab time.  Jerry Tiberio, Jim Starr and I had a conflict with football practice…and football won.     

01/30/18 03:25 PM #3    

John A Birchler

Mr. Byrne often had students assist him during demonstrations.  I was the "volunteer" when he combined two chemicals (I can't recall which two) and created a green gas that wafted in my direction.  (I'm pretty sure chlorine was involved in said demonstration, and I'm also pretty sure that the result was what we called mustard gas during World War I--and most likely chlorine gas in that class.  Forgive my bad memory of chemistry terms.)  Anyway, at one point, Mr. Byrne turned around, saw me, the beaker or test tube I was holding, and the green gas, and said, "Oh, my God!"  Was I concerned?  Of course not!  My. Byrne was a world famous chemistry teacher who taught chemistry teachers how to teach chemistry!  But then he grabbed a bottle of 18M ammonia and had me inhale from it.  I survived.  This, by the way, is not intended as any sort of negative commentary.  I thought he was a brilliant teacher and I LOVED his class.

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