Alfred Viola, 91, died on May 15 in Wayland, Massachusetts, from complications related to COVID-19.
Viola was an emeritus professor at Northeastern University, where he taught organic chemistry for 41 years. When Viola was 9 years old, he fled the Nazi regime in Vienna, Austria, by way of the Kindertransport, a rescue effort that evacuated thousands of Jewish children from Austria and Germany to England at the beginning of World War ll. Viola lived in England for a year before reuniting with his parents in New York.
“Alfred ‘s interest in chemistry began in Vienna with his childhood chemistry set,” his wife, Joy, recalls. “He always knew this was a subject he wanted to pursue and he always intended to teach and undertake research. Students often told him they were afraid of taking organic chemistry because it was so difficult trying to memorize all those formulas. ‘Don’t be afraid of it,’ he’d counsel. ‘Learn to look beyond the formulas to the actions taking place beneath them. See the excitement of what is going on.’ “
Viola earned a BA in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1949 and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Maryland in 1955. He was a 50-year member of ACS and a recipient of the ACS Northeast Section’s Henry Hill Award for his many years chairing the Continuing Education Committee and his service on the local section’s board of directors.
In 1991, Viola and his wife established the Alfred and Joy Viola Undergraduate Scholarship at Northeastern University for students majoring in chemistry and pharmacy. More than 30 students have been awarded this scholarship.