OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi faculty, staff and alumni are remembering Ronald F. Borne, 77, beloved professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry, who died Tuesday (Oct. 18). He was known as a friend to all and a constant source of encouragement to his students.
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 23) at Paris-Yates Chapel on the UM campus. The family will receive friends in the chapel from 1 p.m. until service time. A private inurnment will follow at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.
Borne joined the School of Pharmacy faculty in 1968 and retired nearly 40 years later in 2004. He won the universitywide Outstanding Teaching Award in 1970 and the School of Pharmacy’s Outstanding Teaching Award six times from 1982 to1998. He served as chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and as the university’s interim vice chancellor for research from 1998 to 2001, yet he always returned to teaching.
After retiring, he came back to the School of Pharmacy to help teach as needed, even keeping an office in the school until the time of his passing.
He won the Mississippi Professor of the Year Award from the national Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in 1992.
“I have to walk across the Grove to teach, and when I go in there, there are 115 students who are motivated and want to spend the rest of their lives helping somebody,” Borne said. “They’re bright, they’re intelligent, they’re curious. I get to interact with them for an hour, and the amazing thing is, they pay me to do this. Think of how many people would like to have this situation.”
Borne’s son, Michael Borne, remembers clearly his father’s utmost dedication to teaching and to the university.
“He loved Ole Miss,” he said. “Aside from his family, the thing I think he was most proud of was when he won the schoolwide teaching award. He got most of his validation from teaching. He always loved being a teacher.”
John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, was mentored by Borne and remembers him as a champion of students who went out of his way to make people feel special.
“Talk about a complete faculty member. He was it,” Rimoldi said. “He was everywhere. He seemed to know everyone, past and present. It was just amazing.
“He always took the time to get to know you, and he never missed an opportunity to be generous in his compliments and encouragement. He was the quintessential educator.”
Besides his tremendous impact on students and faculty, Borne contributed to the university’s research mission. His own research focused on the effects of drugs on the central nervous system, and he conceptualized and established the Laboratory for Applied Drug Design and Synthesis. During his time as interim vice chancellor for research, he significantly increased the university’s external funding.
“I really have to think that he was instrumental in moving us towards gaining the Carnegie (R-1) research designation,” said Chris McCurdy, interim chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences. “He was a tremendous ambassador for not just the School of Pharmacy, but for the university and for the state of Mississippi’s pharmacy profession.”
Borne won the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award in 1996. When he won the Rho Chi Lecture Award from the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1994, he made the university one of only two schools nationally to have three recipients of the award.
He helped to found the annual medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy meeting known as MALTO (Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma). In 1988, he won a National Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, allowing him to be a visiting professor of pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Since golf was his foremost hobby, Borne made the most of his time in Scotland. He also initiated a golf tournament at the School of Pharmacy, and the Mississippi Pharmacists Association named its annual golf tournament after him.
An avid fan of Ole Miss athletics, Borne served as a faculty representative on the university’s Athletics Committee in 1978-84. He helped found the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club and attended every Ole Miss baseball game for many years, keeping his own scorebook.
As a younger faculty member, Borne played on basketball, baseball and football teams within the School of Pharmacy, along with Dewey Garner, professor emeritus of pharmacy administration.
“For about 10 years, we had a softball team, a football team and a basketball team, and we all played together up until we were older,” Garner said. “We had a really strong team. One year we played on a slow-break basketball team sponsored by McDonald’s, and we had matching yellow uniforms.”
Borne once explained his philosophy of teaching in a university article: “A coach teaches his players the techniques and the fundamentals and then motivates them to succeed. That’s basically what good teaching is. You provide your students with the basic skills and concepts and then you motivate them to do their best. I don’t care if they can name every tree in the forest, but I want them to understand the beauty of the relationship between chemistry and the pharmacological sciences.”
Such turns of phrase made Borne an exceptional writer. He authored many professional articles, as well as “Troutmouth: The Two Careers of Hugh Clegg,” a book about the namesake of Clegg Field at University-Oxford Airport. His writing style produced profound observations told in clear, steady prose that revealed an appreciation for recording special moments and turning them into memories.
In 2005, one year after his retirement, the School of Pharmacy honored his living legacy with an annual lectureship in his name, featuring speakers from the field of medicinal chemistry. David D. Allen, the school’s dean and a longtime friend, remembered Borne as a frequent attendee at school lectures.
“Dr. Borne had an immensely positive influence on not only the School of Pharmacy but also the entire university,” Allen said. “This lecture was the perfect way for the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Medicinal Chemistry to recognize all he had done.”
Borne received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Loyola University, his master’s degree in organic chemistry from Tulane University and his doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Kansas. He also was a fan of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his sister, Carolyn Hartdegen. He is survived by his cherished companion, Deborah Freeland of Oxford, daughter Debra Price and her husband, Greg, of Jackson, son Michael Borne and his wife, Ashley, of Jackson, daughter MerriBeth Catalano and her husband, James, of St. Charles, Missouri, two brothers and nine grandchildren.
Memorial contributions in Borne’s memory can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
For more information or to sign an online guestbook, visit http://www.wallerfuneralhome.com or call 662-234-7971.