In Memoriam 2021

We have learned of the deaths of the following members of the College of Chemistry community. Listed below are their names, UC Berkeley degree(s), and information about their academic and work history if known. We have also provided a link to an online obituary when available.

David Shirley, Professor of Chemistry and Berkeley Lab Director

David Shirley

(3/29/21) David Arthur Shirley, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, died on March 29, 2021, of age-related illness. Shirley was a pioneer of electron spectroscopy, a teacher, a mentor, and an extraordinary scientific leader with broad vision, who spearheaded the creation of the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley Lab and helped motivate the construction of third-generation synchrotron radiation facilities in the U.S. and around the world.  

Shirley became a lecturer in chemistry at UC Berkeley in 1959 and rapidly rose through the academic ranks to become chairman of the chemistry department in 1968. He was a National Science Foundation fellow at Oxford University in 1966-67, was awarded the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award in 1972, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978, and received an honorary degree from the Free University of Berlin in 1987. His early research was on low-temperature physics, nuclear orientation, and hyperfine interactions, particularly the Mössbauer effect. Later, he helped pioneer X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, work that grew into strong research programs in atomic, molecular, and solid-state spectroscopy, first using Lab-based sources and then using synchrotron radiation at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. Read the obituary here.

Michael Charles Williams, Professor of Chemical Engineering

Michael Willaims

(1/02/2021)  Michael Williams was the first long-term faculty hire for the department in the area of polymers becoming an assistant professor in 1965. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, working with Robert Bird, senior author of the path-breaking Transport Phenomena book, on modeling polymer flow. Williams became interested in the molecular underpinnings of polymer rheology. He spent a post-doctoral year studying polymer chemistry with Marshall Fixman at the University of Oregon’s Institute for Theoretical Science.

At Berkeley, he worked on both continuum and molecular models for polymer rheology, mechanisms of drag reduction by polymers, and enhancement of pool boiling with polymeric additives(link is external). Later on he started research on blood damage in shear flow at non-physiologic surfaces, as in extracorporeal assist devices.  He was also an exceptional teacher and mentor and received the campus Distinguished Teaching Award(link is external) in 1988. Read the full obituary here.


Roger Hildebrandt (B.A. '47, Chem; Ph.D. '51, Phys) physicist and Manhattan Project veteran

Rodger Hildebrand

(1/21/2021) Born Berkeley, Ca. Roger Hildebrand was an American physicist and Manhattan Project veteran. He was the S.K. Allison Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus, at the University of Chicago and was affiliated with the Enrico Fermi Institute.

Hildebrand was born on May 1, 1922 in Berkeley, California to Joel and Emily Hildebrand. His father was a distinguished chemist at the University of California, Berkeley. Following in his father and older brothers’ footsteps, he was studying chemistry at Berkeley when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Five days later, Ernest Lawrence approached Hildebrand, who had just finished his final exams. He asked the undergraduate, “Do you want to help the war effort?” and proceeded to spend the next hour teaching him how to operate a cyclotron. Throughout the war, Hildebrand worked on the Crocker cyclotron and the mass spectrometer, separating uranium isotopes. He was responsible for making the first samples of neptunium and plutonium. Hildebrand was also sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to train workers on how to operate the mass spectrometers at the Y-12 plant. Read about Rodger here.


Bridgette Barry (Ph.D. '84; Chem) Professor of biophysics and biochemistry

Professor Bridget Barry

(1/20/2021) Bridgette A. Barry was a renowned scientist who worked in the areas of Biochemistry and Biophysics and was a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology up until her death. She had an A.B. in Chemistry from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, where she met her husband.

After obtaining her Ph.D., she did post-doctoral training at Michigan State University before starting as an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. Professor Barry received tenure and advanced to full Professorship at the University of Minnesota before moving to Georgia Tech.

Prof. Barry was director of Georgia Tech’s Molecular Biophysics Training Program, and of the Barry Group Laboratory. Her research focused on how the dynamic and responsive protein matrix facilitates biological catalysis. The research involved a wide range of high resolution spectroscopic, biochemical, and structural techniques to describe the reaction coordinate, which was used to reveal the motion of proteins in space and time. Read about Professor Barry's life and career here.


William Cox (Ph.D. '60; ChemE) Professor and dean

William Cox

(12/17/20) Born Manhattan, Kansas.  William's childhood was spent in St. Louis, Washington DC, Ness City (Kansas), and Torrance (California).  He received a B.E. degree from the University of Southern California in 1956 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960, both in Chemical Engineering.  After working for TRW Semiconductors and the Aerospace Corporation for eight years, He returned to USC in 1968 as a professor of chemical engineering and materials science.

He joined Clarkson University in 1975 as chair of its outstanding chemical engineering department. Ten years later, he led the effort to organize a materials research center. In 1987, this center became a New York State Center for Advanced Technology, known as the Center for Advanced Materials Processing headed by Wilcox.

In 1987, Wilcox was also appointed dean of engineering, a post he held for ten years. During that time, he oversaw the development of a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering. Doctoral programs were also created for civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

In 1974 he began a 30-year association with NASA’s microgravity materials research program. This included both ground-based research and experiments in Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and sounding rockets, as well as two sets of experiments performed by Wilcox himself on the notorious “vomit comet” low-gravity aircraft. Read more about his life and work here.


Victor Algirdas Snieckus (M.S. ’61 Chem) Professor of Chemistry

Victor Algirdas Snieckus

(12/18/20) Born in Kaunas, Lithuania. Victor spent most of his childhood in Germany before immigrating to Alberta Canada with his family in 1948. After high school, Victor went to the University of Alberta where he earned a B.S in chemistry. He then continued his education at UC Berkeley where he earned a M.S in chemistry. Victor then earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and had a postdoctoral position at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. In 1967 he joined the University of Waterloo as an assistant professor. After 12 years he became a Professor of chemistry.

In 1992, Victor became the Research chair at Monsanto/NCR Industrial. After 6 years he left Monsanto to Queens University as the Badger Chair of Chemistry. Throughout his long career within the field of chemistry, Victor made fundamental contributions to organo-lithium chemistry. He was also known for the DOM reactions that he and his group pioneered. In addition to these contributions, Victor’s research and collaboration with various pharmaceutical companies led to the anti-inflammatory drug CelebrexTM and to SilthiofamTM. Victor was not only enthusiastic about new discoveries and research but making an impact on student’s lives. Read more about Dr. Snieckus here.

Nicolette Balala (1945-2021) B.A. ’66, Chem

Born Sacramento, CA. Grew up in San Francisco. Nicolette studied chemistry at Berkeley in the 1960s. She had a long career as an IT engineer. Her final position was at Siemens.  After retirement, she moved with her husband Bob to East Wenatchee, WA in 2007. Nicolette was predeceased by her husband.

Mitchell Biondi (1957-2021) B.S. ’80, ChemE

Born San Francisco, CA. Mitch's exceptional intelligence was clear from an early age. From founding the "North American Mammal Society" as a second grader, to graduating salutatorian from his high school and attending University of California Berkeley on a full academic scholarship, Mitch's intellect and tenacity were evident to all who met him. He graduated with a bachelor's of science in chemical engineering in 1980 and accepted a job at Brown & Root (later to be KBR) in Houston, Texas. Mitch's work defined him in many ways. He met complex engineering problems with enthusiasm, creativity, and meticulous attention to detail day in and day out over his 40 years at the company.

In 1986, Mitch met his lifelong companion and wife Susan. They started their family together and had three children: Annie, Sebastian, and Johnny. He enjoyed spending time with his family, refining his extensive music collection, cooking Italian food, being in nature, bird watching, reading, and of course, watching sports. Mitch was a diehard sports fan, especially when it came to his California teams.

John Bush (1933-2021) B.S. ’43, Chem; Ph.D. ’48, Chem

Born Lake Charles, LA. John spent much of his youth in Californi. In the 1950s, John served as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and then earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. His expertise in chemistry brought John to the General Electric Company in Schenectady, NY, where he advanced his career in Research and Development. In 1980, John moved with his family to Massachusetts and was employed as Vice President of Research and Development for The Gillette Corporation. He was highly respected for his expertise and while employed by Gillette, he was called upon to provide testimony at a Senate hearing regarding the mission of the National Science Foundation.

While John was passionate about the sciences, he also had a great appreciation for and understanding of the humanities. He especially enjoyed history, contemporary art, and music. John was an avid reader, a brilliant thinker, and an enthusiastic teacher at heart. During his retirement years, John continued to pursue his love of learning and teaching by dedicating time and energy as a volunteer instructor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California/Irvine.

Ronald Deane McKelvey (1944-2021) Postdoc ’72, Chem

Born Battle Creek, MI. Ron graduated from Lakeview High school in 1962 and went straight to college at Western Michigan University. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. Ron continued on to UC Berkeley where he completed two years of postdoctoral work. After completion at Berkeley, Ron began working for the Institute of Paper Chemistry. He remained there for six years before going on to the University of Wisconsin (UWL), La Crosse, where he would teach for a total of 28 years. During his time at UWL, Ron contributed greatly to the area of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). He obtained a large grant which allowed UWL to obtain their first NMR instrument. With the acquisition of this instrument he taught many students and faculty how to operate it, and the NMR instrument led to numerous international collaborations. Ron also spent an extended amount of time in conducting research in Japan and teaching at Pune University in India. Apart from his impressive work in academia, Ron loved to learn from other disciplines such as travel, music, nature, books, cooking, wine tasting, woodwork, world cultures and art.

Robert Dehn (1941-2020) B.S. ’63, Chem

Born Albany, Ca. Following his graduation, Bob started work as a pharmaceutical chemist at Stanford Research Institute, which later became SRI International. It was there that he spent his entire professional career. It was also at SRI that he met his wife of 52 years, Fran McGroary. After receiving his MBA from Santa Clara University, Bob moved into marketing and business development for the Life Sciences Division of SRI where he continued until his retirement in 2007.

A very active volunteer, Bob served on the Menlo Park Library Commission for 11 years, as commissioner and later as a project consultant. Following his retirement, Bob volunteered at St Anthony's Padua Dining Room in Menlo Park. 

Frank Diaz (1925-2021) B.S. ’50, Chem

Born San Francisco, Ca. First generation American of Spanish heritage. Frank grew up in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. He joined the Army in 1943, trained as a paratrooper, and served in the Pacific until 1946. After his discharge, Frank attended UC Berkeley, graduating in 1950 with a Chemistry degree. He married Mary Ellen Fishbach in 1953. They had two sons.

Most of Frank’s career as a chemist was devoted to developing coatings for magnetic (recording) tape. In 1964 Frank took a job in Connecticut. There he built a house in the woods and learned to split logs. In the mid-1980s, Frank accepted a job in Canada. He retired after ten years moving with Mary to Florida and then Indiana.   

Jerome Earls (1938 - 2021) B.S. '61, ChemE

Born in Bakersfield CA. Jerry was married for 60 years to Margie Earls. They had two children. He attended the University of California in Berkeley graduating with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. In 1975, he was granted a post graduate degree in Food and Leather Science from the University of Leeds in England. 

Jerry's work career included missile/space vehicle design, nuclear power waste treatment system design, tannery pollution control system design/construction/management, tannery quality control manager, nuclear power plant water chemistry consultant, and MBARI underwater test facility water treatment design. He and his wife were lifelong travelers.

Dr. Shun C. Fung (1943 - 2021) B.S. '65, ChemE

Born Guangdong province, China. Shun graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and then continued his education at the University of Illinois with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. He retired in 2003 as a senior research associate at ExxonMobil in Clinton, NJ after working there for 34 years. 

Shun was a member of several prominent catalysis organizations: American Chemical Society, North American Catalysis Society, and the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York.

Shun was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2007. He received the American Chemical Society Middle Atlantic Regional Industrial Innovation Award in 2002. He also received the Excellence in Catalysis Award from the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York in 1999 and the ExxonMobil Chemical Outstanding Patent Award in 1997.

Robley Evans George (1931-2021) B.S. ’54, ChemE

Born in Indiana. Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, He studied engineering at San Diego State and Sacramento State Colleges and was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1954. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, he entered Purdue University and graduated with an M.S. Chem. Engr. in 1957. He completed his formal education at UCLA, specializing in applied mathematics, automatic control theory and nuclear engineering.

Mr. George entered the aerospace industry and participated in the conception, design, analysis, implementation, operation and maintenance of various sophisticated computerized systems. His work through much of this period was classified, though scientific articles did result in the general area of mathematical optimization, specifically nuclear rocket thrust optimization and complex scheduling algorithms. 

In 1969, Mr. George left industry to create the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, a research and educational institution dedicated to the examination and explanation of the properties and possibilities of democratic societies.

Ernest "Jim" Kirschke (1928-2021) Ph.D. '66, Chem

Born Detroit, Michigan. Jim grew up during the Great Depression working several jobs in order to put himself through college. He attended the University of Detroit and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation, Jim enlisted in the US Navy. After Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California he went on to get his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jim proudly served in the Navy for 27 years. After his military career, he and his family made Tallahassee their final home. There he went to work for Olin and Winchester in St. Marks. After 13 years, he retired for the final time and began to travel the world with his wife Annie. He was an Ardant supporter of various causes throughout his career and retirement.

Bruce Page (1942-2021) M.S. '68; Ph.D. '71 ChemE

Born Princeton, Illinois. After turning down an offer of admission to West Point, Bruce earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He spent most of his professional life as an environmental chemical engineer, consulting on solutions for cleaning up hazardous waste.

Bruce was a man of many passions: politics, human rights, the environment, his Harley-Davidson and the music of Bob Dylan. He was a lifelong learner. He valued family, loved the cultural diversity of the Bay Area. He is survived by his beloved wife of 43 years, Carol Gordon Page and their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Harold Russell Lohr (1922 - 2021) Ph.D. '50 Chem

Born Gary, South Dakota. He earned a B.S. from South Dakota State University; a Ph.D. (Nuclear Chemistry) from UC Berkeley; and an M.Div. from Augustana Theology Seminary (LSTC) Chicago, IL. Member Phi Kappa Phi. He served in combat as a 1st Lt. Infantry, US Army with service in European Theater of Operations, 1944 – 1946. 

Harold was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor, an ELCA Bishop for 12 years, retiring in 1991 as Bishop of the NW Minnesota Synod of the ELCA. Prior to his ordination Harold worked as a Research Chemist at Argonne National Laboratory. Chicago, IL.; after ordination in 1958 he served as Pastor-Developer Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Northfield, IL; Assoc. Exec. Sec., Bd. of College Education & Church Vocations, LCA; Director for Study, Research and Planning, Division for Professional Leadership, LCA; Bishop, Red River Valley Synod, Fargo, ND, LCA; Bishop NW Minnesota Synod 1987, Moorhead, MN ELCA; and Interim Director Dept of Synodical Relations, ELCA, Chicago, IL.

Theodore M. Phillips (1926-2021) B.S. '50, ChemE

Born Long Beach, CA. Ted's grandparents were pioneers on the Oregon Trail to California in 1845. He grew up in California and Washington existing in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He served as a an electronics technician and was present in Tokyo Bay when the peace treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in 1945.

He attend UC Berkeley graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree in 1950. He was part of the first graduating class from the department. Ted worked for 18 years for Allied Chemical as a production manager. In 1970 he moved to Oregon DEQ and became a registered professional engineer. In 1972 he was employed as the first chemical engineer for Pacific Power and Light eventually becoming head of the Environmental Department.

Ted married Yvonne Preisser in 1946. They had five children. In retirement, they served in the Laborers for Christ helping to rebuild the Good Earth Lodge at Camp Lutherhaven in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. At the same time they learned to live in their motor home. Ted is survived by his wife and children, 19 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren.

Elmer Schallenberg,  (1929-2021) Ph.D. ’54, Chem

Born Rome, New York. First generation American of Swiss heritage. While he helped his father on the family farm, Elmer knew at an early age, after receiving his first chemistry set, that he wanted to become a chemist.

He received his bachelor’s with honors from Cornell University in 1951, with a double major in chemistry and mathematics. He studied with Melvin Calvin for his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. His favorite story of his years at Berkeley was when he was short of cash and hitchhiked across the U.S. to visit his parents on the farm. Elmer served in the Army Reserves while beginning his career as a chemist at Texaco Research Center in Glenham, New York. He marriedThea Stauber in 1957.

Along with 20 years at Texaco in Glenham and numerous patents developed during his work, Elmer’s international background served him well during more than 10 years of work assignments in London, England, and Hamburg, Germany, where he was Manager of Texaco Technologie Europe.

He retired with his wife to Switzerland in 1991 eventually returning to the United States.

Robert Schoenleber (1955-2021) Ph.D. '83, Chem

Born Waterloo, New York. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Cornell University, magna cum laude, and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. Bob was married to Jean Stauffer. They had two children. 

Bob recently retired from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which culminated his 37 year career in the pharmaceutical industry. Bob began his work as a medicinal research chemist for Abbott Laboratories. He then worked for 20 years for Bayer, Inc. in numerous roles including directing research, portfolio management, regulatory affairs and business development. Since 2013, his work at Alexion focused on leading regulatory strategy. Throughout his career, Bob particularly enjoyed his roles in recruiting and mentoring younger scientists.

Bob was known for his sarcastic sense of humor, sharp intelligence and profound love for his family.  He frequently pursued his passions for the outdoors including hiking, skiing, kayaking, bicycling and golf. Above all, he cherished spending time with his family.

Donna Jackson Stevens (1929 - 2021) B.S. '50, Chem

Born Pueblo, Colorado. When Donna was eight years old, her family relocated to California. She attended Taft Junior College after high school. Upon receiving a scholarship, she transferred to the University of California at Berkeley where she received her B.S. in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. She was one of about seven women in her class of 97 graduates.

Donna was hired by Dow Chemical Company in Pittsburg, California. In 1952, she married Robert (Bob) Wellman Stevens, a packaging engineer and veteran of World War II. They had three daughters. Donna stopped working after five years in order to raise her family. In the mid-1960s, Donna shifted her career and earned a teaching credential and Master's degree in Education from California State University, Hayward. Donna taught math and science at a middle school and two high schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District from 1967 to 1989. She was proceeded in death by her husband and is survived by her three daughters.

Elaine B. Stoner, née Blatt (1939-2021) Ph.D. '64, Chem

Born Brooklyn, New York. Elaine attended Brooklyn College and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Chemistry at UC Berkeley. Her thesis advisor was Robert Connick. Her thesis was titled “Rates of Ligand Exchange on Metal Complexes Measured by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Relaxation Times”. 

In 1964, Elaine met Dr. Clinton Stoner at the University of Wisconsin Enzyme Research Institute, where both were pursuing postdoctoral studies.  They were married in New York in 1965. The couple had two sons.

Elaine worked at Chemical Abstracts Service from 1965-1995, adjacent to the Ohio State campus where Clinton did research. Some of her responsibilities included translating patents and technical papers from German and Russian to English.  She was known for her keen attention to detail and ability to master new technical frontiers.

She enjoyed many travels with her family, including tours of Europe, China, Egypt, and the USSR, as well as road trips going as far as Alaska and Mexico.

She is survived by her sons Robert and Michael and their families.

T. Darrah Thomas (1932-2021) Ph.D. ’57, Chem

Born Glen Ridge, NJ. Darrah grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and graduated from St. Albans school in Washington D.C. After graduating, Darrah received his B.S from Haverford College and continued his education at UC Berkeley where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1957. He began working at UC Berkeley as an Assistant Professor until 1959. In 1959 he went to Brookhaven National Labs and remained there for two years. Darrah then became Professor of Chemistry at Princeton, teaching there for a total of 10 years. In 1971, Darrah once again changed jobs, this time becoming Professor of Chemistry at Oregon State University (OSU). Here he served as Chairman of the Chemistry Department from 1981-1985 and director of the Center for Advanced Materials Research from 1986-1991. Darrah also received numerous honors and distinctions. He worked closely with scientists from Europe, Japan, and Australia studying the energy spectra of electrons. Even after retirement Darrah continued to be involved in his research and at OSU. His most recent research contribution was published in early 2021.