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by Rachel Petkewich
November 20, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 47


Eugene J. Agnello, 86, emeritus professor of chemistry at Hofstra University, died on Sept. 27.

After receiving an A.B. in chemistry in 1941 at Albany State College in New York, Agnello taught high school chemistry for five years before attending graduate school at the University of Rochester, where he received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1950.

After postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois, Agnello began his career in synthetic medicinal chemistry at Pfizer, where his name appeared on 37 patents and 16 papers over 12 years. His research centered on antiinflammatory steroids.

From 1964 to 1990, Agnello was on the chemistry faculty at Hofstra and served as department chair for 10 years. His interest in winemaking led him to offer a course about the chemistry it involves.

An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1949. He also chaired the Long Island Subsection of the New York Section from 1967 to 1968.

Agnello is survived by his wife, Dolores; five children; and several grandchildren.

Harry Burrell, 93, an award-winning coatings chemist, died on Sept. 24.

He published 71 articles on paints and finishes and held 26 patents. Burrell was named president of the Paint Research Institute in 1961, a position he held until 1965. In 1968, he was the first recipient of the ACS Award in the Chemistry of Plastics & Coatings sponsored by Borden Foundation.

He was an adjunct professor in chemistry at Xavier University in Cincinnati and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. Burrell also wrote a book about James Joyce's work.

Burrell is survived by his wife of 73 years, Carol; three children; three grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. An emeritus member, Burrell joined ACS in 1937.

Julius W. Dieckert, 81, professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, died on June 16.

Dieckert was a World War II veteran and earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Texas A&M University. He then worked as a biochemist at the Department of Agriculture's Southern Regional Research Laboratories in New Orleans.

In 1961, he returned to Texas A&M as an assistant professor of biochemistry. He moved up the ranks and, in 1979, moved his research group to the plant sciences department. Ten years later, he transferred to the poultry department.

Dieckert won numerous awards for his work in biochemical cytology and protein chemistry. His wife, Marilyne, was his research associate throughout his career. In 2000, they were honored by the State of Texas for donating seven parcels of land to be maintained in perpetuity as a protected wilderness area.

He is survived by his wife, five children, 17 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1958.

Robert E. Feeney, 94, a protein chemist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, died on Sept. 21.

Working his way through college as a milkman and waiter in sorority houses, Feeney received a B.S. degree in chemistry from Northwestern University in 1938. Subsequently, he studied biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, receiving a Ph.D. in 1942.

Feeney worked at Harvard University as a research associate before enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II and serving as a medic in the Philippines. At the end of the war, he joined USDA's Western Regional Research Laboratory in California.

In 1953, Feeney joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, as a chemistry professor and chair of the department of biochemistry and nutrition.

He became a professor at UC Davis in the department of food science and technology in 1960. Feeney made several trips to the Antarctic, Norway, and Japan to study antifreeze proteins.

His hobbies included reading, art, music, and spending time outdoors.

Feeney is survived by his wife, Mary Alice; two daughters, and three grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1948.

Robert L. Grob, 79, a professor of separations science and environmental chemistry, died on Oct. 22.

He was born in Wheeling, W.Va., and served in the Army before attending college. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in analytical chemistry from the University of Virginia.

After several years as a research chemist at Esso, he joined the faculty at the Jesuit University of Wheeling.

After a move to Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Grob taught both undergraduate and graduate students and led a research group with a focus in separations science and environmental chemistry. He won several prizes for research and excellence in teaching. Although Grob retired in 1992, he remained active in analytical and environmental consulting and taught short courses.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marjorie; four children; a brother; and two grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1949.

Ralph E. Hoy, 84, a chemical engineer who sold synthetic rubber and plastics for 42 years at Exxon, died on Oct. 20.

He served in the Army during World War II and held a B.S. in chemical engineering from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

Hoy is survived by his wife, Terry; seven children; and nine grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1944.

Oscar Klioze, 87, a pharmaceutical researcher, died on July 6.

As a college student during the Great Depression, Klioze babysat his niece in exchange for room and board and tutored other young students to earn money for tuition. He graduated with a B.S. degree from George Washington University in 1940.

Klioze worked for the Department of Agriculture in the flower and plant department until he was drafted into the Army in 1942. During his service, he earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering and worked on the Manhattan Project.

After he was discharged, he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in 1949 and then a year of postdoctoral work in Illinois. Klioze worked for nine years at Pfizer in Brooklyn, N.Y. Then he helped start the pharmaceutical research division at A. H. Robins in Virginia. He retired as vice president of pharmaceutical research in 1984.

Klioze is survived by his wife of 63 years, Olive; three children; and six grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1946.


Nelson J. Leonard, 90, who helped synthesize chloroquinone and who is considered a founder of the field of bioorganic chemistry, died on Oct. 9.

Born in Newark, N.J., Leonard grew up in New York and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar but returned to the U.S. when World War II started. Leonard finished his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1942 at Columbia University, where he began his work on antimalarial compounds. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and worked on synthesizing chloroquinone, the antimalarial drug used in the Pacific Theatre.

At the end of the war, during 1945 and 1946, Leonard consulted for the U.S. Army in Europe. He returned to Illinois, where he became a leader in organic chemistry and a founder of the field of bioorganic chemistry, according to colleagues.

In collaboration with Folke Skoog, a plant physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Leonard carried out investigations of organic compounds that initiate plant, flower, and tree growth from tissue culture, technology that is central to horticultural and agricultural development.

Leonard also collaborated with Gregorio Weber at Illinois to make fluorescent derivatives of the nucleic acid bases so that their location in an enzyme or structural protein could be established. Later in his career, in work that colleagues say Leonard often described as his best, he and his coworkers became involved in the synthesis and examination of surrogates of the purine-pyrimidine base pairs. They also developed coplanar,covalently linked cross sections inoligodeoxynucleotides.

Leonard retired from Illinois in 1986 as the R. C. Fuson Professor of Chemistry. He became a faculty associate in chemistry at California Institute of Technology in 1992.

Leonard could sing, too. From 1943 until 1955, he made solo appearances as a bass-baritone in choral works in the U.S. and Europe. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955, he felt that, if his peers had chosen to recognize him as a chemist, then he had "better do something about it." He gave up performance.

Leonard's research distinctions included the Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry (1981) and an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1995), both bestowed by ACS.

His first wife, Louise, died in 1987. He is survived by his wife, Peggy Phelps; four children; and seven grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1941.

Rudolph H. Michel, 81, a research fellow at DuPont and a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, died on Oct. 26 from complications of a long-term illness. Because of his service as a member of the Armed Forces during World War II and as a translator at the Nuremberg trials, Michel was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Michel was born in Landau, Germany, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1936. Trained as a physical organic chemist, he received a B.S. from the City College of New York and a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame.

During his 32-year career at DuPont, he patented polymeric materials and methods. In his second career between 1984 and 1991 in the Molecular Archaeology Laboratory of the Penn Museum, Michel carried out pioneering archaeological chemical research. His scientific expertise was crucial in identifying the earliest chemically attested 6,6′-dibromoindigotin (ancient royal purple or Tyrian purple), the most famous and expensive dye of antiquity. Other experiments that he conducted remain the basis for ongoing research on ancient dyeing.

A chemist born to a family of vintners, Michel was involved in the chemical characterization of some of the earliest barley beer and grape wine.

Michel is survived by his wife, Nancy; two children; a brother; and a granddaughter. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1950.


John W. Rothrock, 86, a retired career biochemist at Merck, died on Oct. 7 after a long illness.

Born in the family farmhouse in Bangor, Pa., Rothrock was the first in his family to attend college. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1941.

During World War II, Rothrock served as an aerial navigator in the Army Air Force. In 1946, he was discharged as a second lieutenant. He then entered the University of Illinois as a graduate student in biochemistry, completing his Ph.D. in 1949.

Rothrock accepted a position as a research chemist at Merck in New Jersey. Over the next 37 years, his research would help shape some of the firm's most important drugs, including Mevacor and Vasotec. He retired in 1986.

Rothrock served on his local school board and, during the 1970s, was a deacon at his church. He loved genealogy and photography and continued hiking in locations such as the Grand Canyon and the Swiss Alps into his seventies. He and his wife of 60 years, Liz, traveled extensively.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, two brothers, and four grandchildren. An emeritus member, he joined ACS in 1948.


Robert C. Shiffer, 55, director of R&D at Carlisle SynTec, in Pennsylvania, died on Sept. 29.

Born in Harrisburg, Pa., Shiffer earned a B.S. in chemistry from Susquehanna University, in Pennsylvania, and received his M.S. in synthetic organic chemistry from the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.

From 1975 to 2001, he was the chief chemist at Carlisle Tire and Wheel. Since 2001, he was the director of R&D at Carlisle SynTec. He joined ACS in 1974.

A member of his church and the North American Hunting Club, he was also an Eagle Scout and enjoyed hunting, reading, and cooking. He was an avid fan of both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Phillies sports teams.

Shiffer is survived by his wife of 28 years, Marilyn Rose; his father; a daughter; and a sister.

Obituaries are written by Rachel Petkewich. Obituary notices may be sent to and should include detailed educational and professional history.


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