William H. Starnes Jr. (B.S., Chemistry, 1955) received the 2019 Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists on May 9 at a ceremony in Philadelphia. He was honored for his “cutting-edge contributions to the field of polymer chemistry.”

Starnes is considered to be the world’s leading expert in the chemistry of vinyl plastics, particularly poly vinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most common plastics in commercial products. In 1989 he became the first Floyd Dewey Gottwald Sr., Professor of Chemistry at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Prior to his academic career, Starnes spent nearly 25 years in industry, at Esso (now Exxon Mobile) research and engineering and AT&T Bell Laboratories. Although he retired to professor emeritus in 2006, he has continued his groundbreaking work in polymers. A second-generation Hokie, Starnes is an ardent supporter of the university and college, having served on the Department of Chemistry Advisory Council since its inception.