The Hofstra community is deeply saddened to report the passing of Professor Emerita Esther Braun Sparberg, who died in April at the age of 92. Professor Sparberg served for over 40 years in the Department of Chemistry, and was known as a pioneering educator and researcher who exerted a profound influence on her students and colleagues.
“Esther will always be remembered as a very kind, supportive, generous and caring educator who loved learning, loved teaching, and loved her many students. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her,” her colleagues in the Department of Chemistry said in a statement.
Dr. Sparberg was the only female recipient of a B.S. degree in chemistry at the University of North Carolina in 1943. After World War II, she married her husband Lester Sparberg and had two children. She received a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University with a dissertation on nuclear chemistry and the discovery of nuclear fission. This led to ground-breaking papers, “A Study of the Discovery of Fission,” and “Misinterpretations of Theories of Light,” both of which appeared in the American Journal of Physics in 1964 and 1966, respectively, and were cited frequently in textbooks on physical science. The fission paper also appeared in several anthologies.
Dr. Sparberg joined the Chemistry Department in 1960 as a special lecturer. She became an assistant professor the following year and rose rapidly to professor. In addition to general chemistry, she taught several courses in the natural science program – an independent interdisciplinary program within Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for non-science students and future teachers. Dr. Sparberg developed these courses to meet the broad needs and interests of non-science students by placing the emphasis on the methodology and the evolution of scientific thought.
Dr. Sparberg’s contributions to education are also evidenced in her long running Natural Science course for elementary and middle school teachers, which was funded by a succession of ten National Science Foundation grants. Dr. Sparberg directed that course for many years, and served as a lecturer for the physical-science portion of the course. Her success and expertise in science education prompted the NSF administration to ask her to serve on its peer review boards.
Dr. Sparberg also was a co-author of chemistry and natural science textbooks. In 1972, Dr. Sparberg, together with Sibilla E. Kennedy and Frances S. K. Sterrett, published an Instructors Manual to Accompany Chemical Quantitative Analysis: A New Approach. This was followed by the general chemistry laboratory manual Ideas, Investigation and Thought, which she co-authored with Professors Kennedy, Sterrett and Roselin S. Wagner. In addition, Dr. Sparberg co-authored with Prof. Kennedy the Natural Science 11 textbook with laboratory experiments, titled The Physical Sciences: The Search for Order and Harmony.
In 1987, Dr. Sparberg retired but continued some of her teaching activities until the early 2000s. At that time, she and her husband established the Sparberg-Braun Family Endowed Scholarship at Hofstra for outstanding students with a demonstrated financial need.