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Longtime U Chemist Robert W. Parry Dies

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December 7, 2006 -- Robert W. Parry, a University of Utah chemist for three decades, died Dec. 1 after having suffered a stroke on Thanksgiving Day.

Reprinted below are two obituaries. The first was a paid obituary published  Dec. 3 in the Salt Lake Tribune. The second was written for the American Chemical Society by Peter Stang, distinguished professor of chemistry and dean of the University of Utah College of Science.

NEWSPAPER OBITUARY: Robert Walter Parry, Oct. 1, 1917 - Dec. 1, 2006

Robert W. Parry, 89, passed away December 1, 2006 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was born October 1, 1917 in Ogden, Utah to Jeanette (Petterson) and Walter Parry. He graduated from Utah State Agricultural College in 1940, receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He received a master's degree from Cornell University in 1942, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1946.

He married Marjorie Joyce Nelson July 6, 1945. They had two children, Robert Bryce Parry and Mark Nelson Parry.

Robert Parry was a professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan from 1946 to 1969. In 1969, he came to the University of Utah as a distinguished professor of chemistry, and he served in this capacity until 1997. From 1997 until his death, he was professor emeritus at the University of Utah.

He was an extraordinary teacher, teaching chemistry to thousands of undergraduate students. In 1970 he co-authored a high school chemistry text, "Chemistry Experimental Foundations,” which was widely used throughout the United States.

In 1972, he received the Manufacturing Chemists Award for College Teaching. He was also an excellent research scientist, directing research groups at both Michigan and Utah. His graduate students serve on chemistry faculties at universities throughout the country.

In 1980, he received a Senior United States Scientist Alexander Von Humbolt-Stiftung Award, taking him to West Germany for a year. In 1987, he received the first Governor's Medal in Science from the State of Utah.

His unique gift, however, was his ability to interact with people. He was a husband, father, teacher, consultant, and colleague.

Robert Parry was extremely active in the American Chemical Society. He served as its president-elect in 1981 and president in 1982. He was a member of the council of the American Chemical Society more than 45 years. He served on the board of directors of the American Chemical Society from 1973 through1983. From 1969 through 1980, he was a member of the board of editors of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He was the founding editor of Inorganic Chemistry from 1960 through 1963.

He was chairman of the board of trustees of the Gordon Research Conference during 1967-1968.

In 1993, Robert Parry received the Priestley Medal, the highest honor given by the American Chemical Society, for lifetime achievement in chemistry. He received the Distinguished Service to Inorganic Chemistry Award in 1965, the Distinguished Service to Chemical Education Award in 1977, and the Utah Award for Service to Chemical Education in 1978. He received honorary doctor of science degrees from Utah State University (1985) and the University of Utah (1997).

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marj; two sons, Bryce and Mark; and his grandchildren, Russell, Marelle, Lauren, Kristie and Robert. He is predeceased by his parents; two brothers, Dean and Edward; and sister, Jeanette.

A memorial service will be held 3 p.m. at the Evans & Early Mortuary, 574 East 100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the University of Utah Women's Club Scholarship Fund would be appreciated.

OBITUARY BY PETER STANG

Robert W. Parry, 89, distinguished professor of chemistry, emeritus, died on Dec. 1, 2006, from a stroke suffered on Thanksgiving Day.

Born in Ogden, Utah, Bob grew up in Utah and graduated with a B.S. in soil chemistry in 1940 from Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University). He received a master's degree from Cornell University (also in soil chemistry) in 1942 and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry under John C. Bailar, Jr. from the University of Illinois in 1946.

Later that year, Bob joined the chemistry department at the University of Michigan, where he became a leader in inorganic chemistry. In 1969, he joined the faculty at the University of Utah as a distinguished professor of chemistry, and remained at Utah until his retirement in 1997, when he became an emeritus professor. Together with Henry Eyring and Cheves Walling, Parry played a key role in the growth and development of chemistry at Utah.

His 60-year career combined excellence in education, research, service and advancement of the profession. Both at Michigan and Utah, Bob taught chemistry to thousands of undergraduates and he mentored over 60 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom are now leaders in both academia and industry.

He authored or co-authored 150 scientific publications in the areas of boron and main group chemistry and he was widely recognized as a pre-eminent boron chemist. At Michigan, he served as the first chairman of the Honors Program in Science and was a senior author of the High School Chem Study Prentice-Hall writing team.  Together with Henry Taube, Bob was editor for “Foundations of General Chemistry,” a paperback series by Prentice-Hall Publishers.

Parry was founding editor (1962-64) of Inorganic Chemistry, the premier journal in inorganic chemistry, and served on its editorial board from 1962 until 1979. He was president of Inorganic Synthesis, Inc. (1969-1972) and served as an associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (1966-1968, 1971-1980).

Bob was very active in the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.  He served on the executive committee of the ACS inorganic division, chairing this committee in 1965.  He was an ACS councilor for over 40 years, a member of the ACS Board of Directors (1973-1983), and in 1982 served as President of the ACS. 

In addition to his extensive activities within ACS, for over 20 years Bob was also active in various other organizations related to chemistry.  He was a member of the board of trustees for the Gordon Research Conferences (1965-1972), including chair of the board of trustees in 1968.

Between 1980 and 1995, he served as executive secretary, chair and councilor of the chemistry section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Between 1965 and 1982, Bob served in several capacities in International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

For his extraordinary accomplishments as an educator and his research distinctions, as well as his lifelong service to the profession of chemistry, Parry received numerous awards and honors. These include the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry (1965); Manufacturing Chemists Award for Excellence in the Teaching of College Chemistry (1972); ACS Award in Chemical Education (1977); Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award (1980, 1983); the first Governor’s Medal in Science and Technology, State of Utah (1987); honorary doctor's degrees from Utah State University (1985) and the University of Utah (1997).  These recognitions culminated in his receipt of the ACS Priestley Medal (1993), the highest honor bestowed by the ACS. 

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marjorie; two sons, Bryce and Mark; and his grandchildren Russell, Marelle, Lauren, Kristie and Robert. 

Media Contacts

Peter B. Armentrout
distinguished professor and chair of chemistry
Office phone: (801) 581-7885
Email address: armentrout@chemistry.utah.edu
Peter Stang
distinguished professor of chemistry and dean of the College of Science
Office phone: (801) 581-8329
Email address: stang@chem.utah.edu
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