Dr. S.K. Airee (second from left) is pictured April 27 at his retirement reception with (from left) Dr. Charles Harding, professor emeritus of chemistry; Dr. Nick Dunagan, UT Martin chancellor emeritus; and Cathy Dunagan, wife of Nick Dunagan. Airee died June 23 at the age of 84.

Longtime professor of chemistry dies at age 84

Dr. S.K. Airee, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Tennessee at Martin, died June 23 at the age of 84. He retired from UT Martin on May 31 after serving the university for 54 years and is UT Martin’s longest-serving faculty member to date.

Airee is survived by his wife and three children, Hans Airee, of Cary, North Carolina; Anita Airee, of Knoxville; and Richa Airee, of Brentwood. Funeral arrangements will begin at 2 p.m., June 28, at Murphy Funeral Home in Martin. Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. Friday until funeral time.

“Dr. S.K. Airee was a tremendous asset to the Department of Chemistry and Physics, and that department and the chemistry degree program would not be what they are today without his influence and guidance over the past five and a half decades,” said UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver. “He leaves behind the kind of legacy an educator dreams about, with hundreds of former students impacting the field of chemistry around the world – many of them even educating a third or fourth generation of young scientists. Dr. Airee’s absence will be felt not only on campus but also throughout the region as others continue his work with the American Chemical Society and other organizations.”

Airee joined the UT Martin faculty July 7, 1965, as an assistant professor of physical sciences at the UT Martin Branch and helped the UT Martin bachelor’s degree program in chemistry earn accreditation from the American Chemical Society. He also chartered the UT Martin chapter of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (now known as the Student Members of the American Chemical Society) in 1971. This chapter is the most decorated chapter in ACS history and holds more than 30 Outstanding Ratings, more than any chapter in the nation, and has received a Green Chapter Award every year since the award was created, an honor no other chapter can claim.

Airee was affiliated with the American Chemical Society in one way or another for the past 61 years. In addition to his classroom work, he worked closely with the Kentucky Lake Section of the ACS and served as chair in 1992 and councilor from 1999-2010. He was the recipient of numerous university, industry and community service awards, including the UT Distinguished Service Professorship Award in 2016, the Dr. Joe Johnson Lifetime Service Award from the University of Tennessee System in 2015, the UT Martin Cunningham Outstanding Teacher/Scholar Award in 2006 and Kiwanian of the Year in 1968.

The Airee family has initiated three endowment funds – the Martin Kiwanis Award for Leadership and Service, the S.K. and Shashi Airee Scholarship, and the Monsanto SAACS Fund – to help UT Martin students fund their education. Airee is an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Martin, and he and his wife, Shashi, have three children, all of whom are UT Martin and UT Health Science Center alumni.

For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.


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