It is with sincere pleasure that I introduce you to Dr. William Coleman, III as the 2022 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Tobacco Science, an award well overdue in my opinion. I have had the distinct privilege of working with Bill since he started with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1986.
Prior to beginning his professional career Bill obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of South Carolina. He then served as a commissioned Naval officer (LTjg) with a tour at the Navel Environmental Health Center where he led a team in establishing the first accredited industrial hygiene laboratory for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. While building the laboratory around NIOSH approved methods, technologies for the analysis of unique military materials were also developed. For his exemplary efforts, LT Coleman accepted a fellowship to obtain his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech working with Dr. Larry Taylor and the Navy Achievement Medal. Upon receiving his degree, he was assigned to the Office of Naval Research, Naval Biosciences Laboratory. While stationed there, he conducted research into antifouling paint development, characterization of unique synthetic jet fuels, reversible oxygen carrying complexes, model systems for vitamin B12, and methodologies for the detoxification of military materials. Upon leaving active duty (LtCDR), Dr. Coleman accepted a position with the Dow Chemical Company where he led efforts in the creation of novel homogeneous and heterogeneous organometallic catalysts focused on the production of unique molecular weight distributions of polymers and copolymers of ethylene. In April 1986 RJRT was fortunate to have Bill join the R&D ranks as a Senior Chemist where he conducted research into the synthesis, purification, and isolation of novel flavor compounds using non-food residual biomaterials as reagents. Bill's early work at R&D also focused on the development of multidimensional Gas Chromatography in conjunction with matrix isolation IR for trace analysis of smoke components. Based on this work he became internationally recognized as a leading authority in this field. In 1989 Bill was promoted to Senior Staff Chemist, in 1993 to Master Chemist, in 1998 to Principal Scientist, and in 2002 to Senior Principal Scientist. The promotions to Master, Principal and Senior Principal are significant because Bill's R&D peers nominated him via a strenuous peer review process in recognition of his numerous contributions to tobacco science. His career afforded him the opportunity to obtain hands-on expertise in a number of scientific disciplines including reactions with air-sensitive materials; chemical and biotransformation of biomass; laboratory and pilot scale isolation of value added components from processed biomass, extraction technologies such as super-critical fluid extractions; microwave-assisted extraction, liquid-liquid extractions, solid phase extraction, solid phase microextractions; separation techniques such as gas chromatography, liquid chromatography (laboratory, prep and production-scale), column chromatography, organic and inorganic compound synthesis methodologies; electrochemical conversions conversion of inorganic species; and interpretation of data generated from mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, atomic emission, X-ray fluorescence and atomic absorption. Extensive experience in the domestic and international growth, harvest, extraction, and preparation of flower concretes and absolutes was obtained with both lab and production scale process for the extraction of fresh flowers, along with the isolation of their concrete and absolute fractions.
While employed with Dow Chemical and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Dr. Coleman maintained his active reserve commission, assigned as a scientific field officer for the Office of Naval Research, and retiring as a Commander. Most recently, Dr. Coleman has consulted in the area of producing, via biocatalytic and chemical processes, value added materials from residual non-food biomass as well as the qualitative and quantitative characterization of novel flavors. His most recent interest has been in the quantitative analysis of nicotine and secondary alkaloid enantiomers. There is no doubt based on Bill's biography in tobacco science that his contributions are significant. He is a prolific writer with over 140 peer reviewed publications, including five books and invited manuscripts and chapters within several monographs. His career has included research posts in organometallic chemistry, catalytic chemistry, environmental chemistry, and natural product chemistries. He also holds 35 US Patents, numerous European and foreign patents. Bill and our colleague Dr. Bert Gordon taught short courses in both gas chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for many years that were extremely popular. If there is one word that describes Bill to me, it is that of “Teacher”. If we had all been lucky enough to have had Bill as our first chemistry teacher, then the world would be filled with chemists− He is so much fun to work with and he truly brings chemistry to life.
When asked to teach an internal short course in descriptive organic chemistry at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Bill quickly obliged, and the course filled up so quickly that we had to cut off enrollment. He retired from R. J. Reynolds as a Senior Principal Scientist (a very small and prestigious group), but still publishes and still teaches. He currently volunteers as a tutor of freshman chemistry students and is a member of the Virginia Tech Department of Chemistry. I would like to call attention to Bill's fabulous family. He is married to the former Linda Todd and they have three fabulous children, Bill, IV and his wife Asuka; Todd and his wife Jamie, and daughter Sara and her husband Dean. They have three beautiful grandchildren as well, Lola Jane Blumberg, Jossie Cora Blumberg and Otis Daniel Coleman who are the apples of Bill's eyes.
Lastly, I want to extend my sincere thanks to two of Bill's favorite collaborators, Dr. Thomas Perfetti and Dr. Mike Dube for their help in submitting Bill for the Lifetime Achievement Award.