Botto joined the ACS in 1972 as a college student. He later joined ACS-Greater Houston Section (GHS) in 1975 when he moved to Houston to work for Exxon. He was elected to the ACS-GHS Executive Board about 1979 and served in several capacities throughout the 80s, receiving the ACS-GHS Local Section Award in 1982 and the ACS Regional Award for the Southwest Region in 1994. He also served as Chairman of the SW Region in 1995.
In 1978, Exxon asked Bob to conduct a chemistry show for high school students visiting the campus in Baytown. That began his long career in chemistry outreach. He expanded into a school outreach program and developed a chemical “magic” stage show and performed with volunteer assistants at schools in mainly the Baytown area several times during the school year. Each year for National Chemistry Week, ExxonMobil would allow him time to tour the schools and perform several shows during that week. When ExxonMobil developed a “science ambassador” program for schools, Bob’s chemistry shows and demonstrations fit in perfectly. Demand for his chemistry shows increased steadily and Bob recruited a circle of volunteers to help.
When the National ACS conducted the Kids & Chemistry Pilot Study in the fall of 1993, the Greater Houston Section was chosen as one of four pilot sites nationally. Bob served as a coordinator for the Houston Kids & Chemistry Program and helped to recruit volunteers, test the hands-on kits and orchestrate presentations at the various venues. In 1994 Bob helped the ACS assess the effectiveness of the program in capturing the interest of the kids and changing their opinions toward science and continued to serve National ACS as a member of their Kids & Chemistry Advisory Board for several years. With the successful completion of the pilot, Bob took up the role of Kids & Chemistry coordinator for the GHS-ACS as Chairman of the “Chemistry in Community” Committee. Each year Bob conducted volunteer recruitment and training sessions, some in conjunction with the National ACS. He maintained a database of volunteers and encouraged them to conduct their own Kids & Chemistry programs at various venues such as libraries, rodeos, parks, camps, kids at work, shopping malls, churches, scouts’ events, museums etc.
Bob retired from ExxonMobil in 2010 but continues to be an active volunteer with the ACS-GHS. 2019 is the 4th year in a row that Bob has organized the Children's Museum National Chemistry Week hands on chemistry activities. The Children's Museum typically has 300 plus kids and parents visit our tables each year. The volunteers are college chemistry students and this year 58 signed up.
He was elected a Fellow of the ACS in 2011 and in 2015 was presented the Helen Free Award for exemplary volunteer service to the ACS. We thank Bob for his years of volunteer service and salute his continued commitment to sharing the joy of chemistry with community members of all ages!