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Pelham Wilder Jr.

by Susan J. Ainsworth
December 10, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 50

Pelham Wilder Jr., 92, University Distinguished Service Professor at Duke University, died on Oct. 6.

Wilder received a bachelor’s degree at Emory University. He then began graduate studies in chemistry at Harvard University but was interrupted by the start of World War II. After serving two years of active duty as an ensign in the Navy in the Pacific Theater, he completed a Ph.D. at Harvard.

He then joined the chemistry faculty at Duke University, where he would remain for the next 50 years. He also held a professorship in the pharmacology department in the Duke University School of Medicine for 35 years. Wilder served as university marshall and chief of protocol from 1977 until his retirement in 2000.

Wilder received the Duke Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1971 and the University Medal in 1993.

A leader of Duke’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps efforts for 25 years, he received the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award in 1989.

Wilder also served as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, DuPont, and the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program. He was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1943.

He was president of the Durham Rotary Club and a ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church.

Wilder’s wife, Sterly, died in 1998. He is survived by daughters, Ann and Sterly; son, Pelham III; and two grandsons.

Obituary notices of no more than 300 words may be sent to Susan J. Ainsworth at and should include an educational and professional history.


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