New chair fills Zahir’s position

Jennifer Balao

A new chair was appointed to the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department earlier this semester, filling the position left vacant after the death of the former chair, Omar Zahir.

Taeboem Oh, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said he is still adjusting to being chair of the department.

Oh said he was initially hesitant to take the position because he would not be able to teach as much. He said he stepped forward anyway because someone needed to do the job.

Oh said he would be teaching only one class due to his new position.

He said his philosophy for the department includes “more changes at the local level, better utilization of resources, trying to improve (the department’s) curriculum, trying to help the inflow of chemistry majors, as well as college of science and math majors.”

“I really enjoy working with Tae (Oh). I think he has the ingredients to be a wonderful department chair,” Jerry Stinner, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said.

Zahir passed away at a staff meeting the week before the Fall 2005 semester began, Stinner said. He died of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Zahir had been at CSUN about 19 years, he said.

“Omar was extremely well liked in the department,” Stinner said. “It was a real blow to the department and college.”

Zahir was finishing up his three-year term as chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and coming up for renewal, he said.

Stinner added that he thinks Zahir would probably have continued as chair “because he enjoyed his job immensely.”

A memorial for Zahir was held at CSUN on Oct. 3, 2005 at the University Student Union.

The process of appointing a new chair began with a committee of three faculty members from the department: James Schaeffer, Eric Kelson and Gagik Melikyan.

Schaeffer, who chaired the committee, said they asked faculty in the department for their input, then asked the tenured members if anyone would consider taking the position.

Oh was one of the professors who took interest, Schaeffer said. The candidates, including Oh, were then asked to write a statement regarding their goals for the department and how they would go about accomplishing those goals.

The statements were circulated among the permanent faculty and staff, after which the faculty voted on which candidate to recommend to the dean of the college, Schaeffer said.

Due to losing other faculty members to retirement and resignations over the last three semesters, including this semester, Oh said the department is still in “crisis mode.”

The department is doing better than last semester, but is still short at least four faculty professors, he said.

Jennifer Balao can be reached at