AU Press Releases

Robert L. Snyder, former faculty member, dies at 70

Robert L. Snyder

Robert L. Snyder

Robert L. Snyder, a member of the Alfred University faculty for 26 years, died Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Atlanta, GA, after a long battle with cancer. Snyder was 70 and at the time of his death was a professor and co-chair of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech.

While he left Alfred University in 1996, Snyder never truly "left" Alfred; he retained his ties to the faculty, to his former students, and to the University itself. "Bob Snyder was truly a legendary figure whose sense of humor was exceeded only by his scientific prowess," said AU President Charles M. Edmondson. "I often asked Bob for guidance, and he never failed to offer it in terms that were clear, humane, and wise. Alfred has lost a dear friend."

One of the final doctoral students at Alfred University mentored by Snyder was Scott Misture ’90, who received his Ph.D. in 1994. "Bob was really a unique person and impossible to distill to a few words," said Misture, who is now an Inamori Professor of Materials Science in the Inamori School of Engineering. "What made Bob special? He was truly a visionary, and he had a gift for engaging people in that vision, building excitement and creating landslides of support and success - all while making close friends and enjoying life at every turn. He was everyone’s friend, and we’ll all miss him."

"Although Bob had left AU, the year before I got here, he was a powerful force in shaping my relationships with Alfred," said Doreen Edwards, dean of the Inamori School of Engineering. "His contribution at AU was visible years after he left. Over the past five years, as I got to know Bob through the American Ceramic Society, I have considered him an influential mentor. I will miss him greatly."

In October 2007, Snyder made his last official appearance on the Alfred University campus, delivering the McMahon Lecture. His topic that day was "The New World of Materials Science Engineering; Nano and Bio Technology," capturing the essence of where his research interests were focusing in recent years.

He was perhaps best known in the international materials science community for his work on the characterization of advanced materials by x-ray diffraction. He created Alfred’s first x-ray diffraction facility.

His colleagues in the International Centre Diffraction Data paid tribute to Snyder was well, posting: "… he was chairman of the Board for the ICDD from 1996-2000, as well as a board member in consecutive terms from 1986-2004. He also served as a member of the Denver X-ray Conference organizing committee and was the current chairman of that group. During his tenure in these positions Bob formed many lasting relationships with both former and current ICDD employees, ICDD members, and the international scientific community that we serve.

Snyder had "a huge number of friends, both professional and personal around the globe. He was truly a global ambassador for material science and all types of x-ray analysis. He was known around the world for his passion for life and the intensity and excellence of his science. His technical accomplishments were vast and numerous. His impact on others as a professor, administrator, teacher, mentor and friend will continue during their lives. … He will be sorely missed." (For more:

After leaving Alfred, Snyder was chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Ohio State until 2002.

At Georgia Tech, where he had been a professor and administrator since 2003, Snyder "was known for building bridges between nanotechnology, biology, medicine, chemistry, materials science and engineering throughout his career." (For the complete obituary from Georgia Tech, see Http://

Snyder arrived in Alfred in 1970, shortly after completing his Ph.D. degree from Fordham University in 1968 in physical chemistry and crystallography, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. He had earned his B.S. in chemistry, mathematics and philosophy from Marist College in 1963.

Snyder was the author of two textbooks, edited nine technical books and contributed chapters to nine books and encyclopedias. He held eight patents and had published nearly 300 papers on materials and materials characterization. He had delivered more than 1,000 talks at conferences around the world, including more than 40 plenary and keynote addresses.

He was a Fellow of the American Society of Metals and the American Ceramic Society, and a Distinguished Fellow of the International Centre for Diffraction Data. He received the American Ceramic Society Outstanding Educator Award and the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Materials Society recognized him for his leadership in the field and as an educator.

He and Sheila, whom he married 48 years ago, raised their two children, Robert N. Snyder, who is a 1993 alumnus of AU, and Kristina Snyder Gardner, who graduated from AU in 1995, in Alfred. Snyder is also survived by two grandchildren.

The family is planning a memorial service in October.