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Stephen Montzka, Class of 1979, Inducted in 2003

Air is something most of us simply take for granted.  But Stephen Montzka has devoted his professional life to studying it, in his career as an environmental atmospheric chemist.  From his offices at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, Stephen researches the changes in the  composition of the global atmosphere that affect the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect.

As an international expert on the topic, he’s had the opportunity to be at the center of scientific research on one of the truly global environmental problems of our day:  stratospheric ozone depletion. 

His work has led him from the spectacular mountains of Colorado across the globe.  He’s attended scientific field missions and meetings at places such as the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, the tropical islands of American Samoa, New Zealand, Tasmania and the South Pole.

“The South Pole was a tremendous experience,” he said.  “It was almost like leaving the planet . . . an isolated community of people.”

He reports on his global findings to scientists through scientific literature, and to the public and global policy makers through reports commissioned by the United Nations.

During his high school days at F-M, Stephen excelled in math and science, but he also attributes his success to lessons learned playing on the varsity soccer team, led by then-coach Ed Schmidt. 

“A lot of my success extends from soccer,” Stephen explained.  “Our coach was very hard on us, but in the end, he instilled a sense that hard work is really worth the effort.  To really accomplish something you truly feel good about, you have to have ‘stickto-it-ivness’!”

From high school, Stephen received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at St. Lawrence University, followed by a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Colorado.  He completed post-doctoral work as a National Research Council Fellowship winner at the NOAA in 1991. 

He’s also the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2000 NOAA Research Employee of the Year award, and the US Department of Commerce Silver Medal award in 1997.  He continues today to write scientific papers which he publishes and presents all over the world.  Five papers that he wrote or co-authored have been recognized within the NOAA as the Outstanding Scientific Paper of the Year.

When he’s not studying the air, Stephen enjoys playing in it!  He coaches soccer, loves rock climbing and relaxing with his wife and two young daughters in Boulder.

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