No one, no one, has served the students of Clayton State University as long as Professor of Chemistry Dr. James “Jim” Braun. As Braun retires this spring, the University remembers a one-of-a-kind educator.
When Braun concludes his career at Clayton State by leading the faculty into the Athletics Center and banging down the ceremonial mace to open the University’s Commencement ceremonies on May 9, he will also conclude 37 years at Clayton State, making him not only the University’s senior faculty member, but the longest-serving individual in the University’s 45-year history.
As the saying goes, Jim Braun has seen it all…
“Clayton State University really is one of the top 100 places to work in Atlanta, maybe even in a broader area,” he says. “My years have been spent with excellent faculty colleagues, wonderful staff members and memorable students. It has been a delightful experience, one that I will not soon forget and I wish the people I leave behind every success in their endeavors. It has been fun and a great ride and I will truly miss everyone here at the University.”
Braun came to Clayton State in 1978 after earning his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Washington (Mo.) University in 1976. During his time at Clayton State, he has seen the University’s chemistry efforts grow from nothing more than a course required for graduation to a full-fledged major and a department with nine professors.
While Braun has been first and foremost an educator – two of his most recent papers dealt with traditionally difficult high school chemistry topics and group size affecting field trip effectiveness – he will also always be known at Clayton State for bringing magic to his classroom. Literally and figuratively. You see, Braun has been a magician since taking a continuing education course in magic while he was in graduate school.
“I was bitten by the bug, I guess it was in 1975 in St. Louis,” he says. “It’s an excellent vehicle for exhibiting certain science principles, and to get the students to come to class on Fridays. It also gives me a better stage presence in the classroom, so it’s been a benefit for academic reasons.”
For 25 years, up until 2007, Braun presented his “Magical Extravaganza” at Clayton State each year. For his final year at Clayton State, he brought the Extravaganza back for the last time in January 2015, to a rousing reception and a full house, proving that Braun’s skills at prestidigitation, as well as teaching, remain sharp. In addition to performing in the classroom on Fridays, he’s still performing for groups as varied as the Clayton State Honors Program students, scouts, and church groups.
“Next for me will be a mixture of work around the yard, work in my basement and fun wherever I can find it,” he says.
And, as generations of Clayton State students will attest, he also brought that fun, and knowledge, to the classroom.