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Henry W. Offen

by Susan J. Ainsworth
August 9, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 32

Henry W. Offen, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died on April 25 after a battle with a rare gastrointestinal cancer, just three days before his 73rd birthday.

Born in Uelzen, Germany, Offen came to the U.S. in 1953. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in chemistry from St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minn., in 1958 and earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from UCLA in 1963.

Offen then joined the chemistry department at UC Santa Barbara. He was the author or coauthor of more than 80 papers in the field of high-pressure spectroscopy.

As UC Santa Barbara’s campus developed, Offen served there as associate dean of the Graduate Division, acting director of the Chicano and black studies departments, director of the Marine Science Institute, director of the Natural Land & Water Reserve System, and director of the Natural Reserve System (NRS). After retiring in 1994, he became the interim director of NRS. He also continued to teach seminars in the Freshman Honors Program until earlier this year.

In his teaching, Offen emphasized the importance of sustainability. He was an avid gardener who at one time cultivated more than 100 fruit trees and berry vines. He supplied fruits and vegetables to family, friends, and colleagues and even to animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo. A memorial endowment fund established in Offen’s name will provide an annual stipend for an undergraduate student to be a summer research intern at one or more of the UC Santa Barbara reserves. Offen was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1961.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Bobbie; son, Karl; daughter, Julia; and a granddaughter.

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