|In Memoriam...Nicholas J. Turro|
"I took Nick Turro’s Organic Photochemistry in 1982 or thereabouts. I pulled a “C” on the midterm and was dangerously close to being asked to “find something else to do”. As it happened, I had two final exams scheduled for the same time and day, and Prof. Turro allowed me to take his exam at a later time. To my vast surprise, I found the exam quite easy.
A few days later, Professor Turro called me to his office, and I anticipated that he might suspect foul play on my part, for I certainly had not, by that time, distinguished myself academically. The truth was, I had given up my dream of achieving my PhD in chemistry, and consequently, had no reason to panic on the final exam, as I had done on the previous exam. In the absence of panic, I did quite well.He said (and I remember it exactly), “John, you got a hook on the midterm, but you got a perfect paper on the final. Your numerical average is a B, but I’m going to give you an A because you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps.”By this kindness, he proved to me that he never questioned my integrity, for he could just have let the B stand. Indeed, the expectation of honor and integrity was ingrained in the culture.
What astonishingly intelligent and good people were the faculty in those days, and I have no doubt this high standard continues to this day. I shall always remember my time in Havemeyer Hall as the finest academic experience that anyone could wish for." John Welsh, Ph.D., President and CEO, Vaccine Research Institute of San Diego, San Diego, CA 92109, 10/11/13
"As friends and neighbors of the Turro's when we all lived at 560 Riverside Drive, Arch and I want to send our deepest sympathy to his family. We won't make the memorial on Saturday because we are now living in Tucson, but we do want to send our condolences. Nick, as the young chemistry professor –– was a full-of-life guy and we have the fondest memories of him, his wonderful wife, Sandy and his lovely young daughters. Our children, Sabrina (Roberts) and Tristan have important memories of those days as well. Please convey our love and fond remembrances to his family." Janet and Archie Soares; Janet Soares, Professor of Dance Emerita, Barnard College, Columbia University, 5/9/2013
"I had the privilege of interacting with Prof. Turro for 2 years; he was a co-adviser during my Masters degree and I took his molecular photochemistry class as well. I am no longer even a chemist, but it is amazing how many things that he taught me --- about chemistry, about research, and about managing one's time --- have stuck with me through the years. He was a scientist in the broadest sense of the word, and will be missed." Jonathan Katz ('98), Associate Professor, University of Maryland, 3/1/2013
"Nick was the main reason I came to Columbia after my undergraduate degree at Cornell. Although I’d been accepted to Harvard and other Ivies for graduate work, his enthusiasm, wit, and collegial manner convinced me that Columbia was the place to be. The department was very strong, of course, including Gilbert Stork and Ron Breslow among others. Although I did my PhD with Charles Cantor rather than with Nick, I always valued his presence in the department. I didn’t connect with Nick after I left Columbia, but I am still very saddened by his death." Scott Reines, (Ph.D 1973), 3/1/2013
"It is with fond memories that I have of my time at Columbia during the early 1990s. The camaraderie of the students and the professors made graduate work there very educational and exciting. Prof. Turro contributed to that environment in so many ways – through the students in his group and in his interaction with the rest of the students and staff in the chemistry program. Deepest prayers to his family, loved ones and friends. He will be well remembered and sadly missed. Warmest sympathy." Frank P. Hollinger, Ph.D., COO - Sphaera Pharma, Inc., Vice President, Sphaera Pharma Pte. Ltd., Wayne, PA, 3/1/2013
"Some of us get a little behind in looking at C&EN News, so I was shocked when I picked up the Dec. 10 issue and saw Professor Turro's picture in the obituary section. As a graduate student in Turro's group, I never appreciated (and sometimes dreaded) "seminar Thursday," when we had two group seminars, one on recent literature and one on research, followed by department seminars in the late afternoon and evening. Later, I recognized that was how Turro taught us to be scientists, to think critically, to express ourselves clearly, and to immerse ourselves in chemistry. He was always brimming with energy and ideas and he was very accessible to his students and post-docs. Some of the chemistry faculty trained by intimidation and fear; but Turro earned our respect and we wanted to do our best. Oh, he asked hard questions, but only to make us think. Yes, Turro made outstanding contributions to chemistry, but I think perhaps his greater contribution was in the many lives he touched, the long line of graduate students and post-docs who spent time in his lab." Dr. Peggy Wolf Geiger ('76), Chemistry Instructor, Gaston College, Dallas, NC 28034-1499, 2/20/2013
"It was quite a shock to learn of the passing of Nick Turro. My heart goes out to Sandy and the rest of his family, as well as the Columbia Chemistry community. As an undergraduate chemistry major at Columbia I had the privilege of learning organic chemistry from Nick in C3445x the first semester of the honors undergraduate chemistry course. I later took G4147x (Advanced Organic
Chemistry) from Nick when I was a senior. Nick clearly was one of the best and gifted teachers I ever had in my career. I almost did a senior summer research project with Nick on the photochemistry of oxetanes, but I politely turned him down to work on some of the initial steps in synthesizing Rifamycin S with Gil Stork.
While I later went on to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics, Nick maintained an interest in my career throughout the years and often hosted me as a seminar speaker in the department. I find it amusing that things have come full circle and for a number of years now I have been applying density functional theory to study the properties of novel organic molecules. Nick would probably have said I finally came back to my senses and returned home after all! It always amazed me how this internationally renowned chemist took the personal time as a human being to make me and the others he encountered feel welcome, treasured, and even loved. It always came so natural to him.
I last saw Nick in New York in 2008 at an award ceremony honoring him. Of course this particular award ceremony was just one of the many that honored him throughout his illustrious career, but I did not know that this would be the last time I would ever see Nick again.
I may enter Havemeyer Hall and Chandler Hall one day in the future, but somehow it will never mean the same to me as Nick Turro will not be there and he, at least for me, epitomized Columbia Chemistry.
May he rest in peace." Dr. Steven L. Richardson, 2/19/2013
It is the saddest day that I have lost a mentor, a colleague, and the most favorite person in the world! Nick Turro was more than an advisor! The scientific community will always miss him. Nick will always live in our hearts and minds. May his spirit live forever! Anis Rahman, Ph.D., CEO/CTO, Applied Research & Photonics, Inc, Harrisburg, PA, 12/23/2012
I am an undergrduate from China. I know Prof. Nick Turro through your department homepage, without ever meeting him. To begin with, I intended to apply for PhD to Turro. But today, I suddenly discovered the passing of Prof. Turro on Nov. 27, 2012. Although I never met with Turro, I really admire his achievement in the field of Chemistry, ChemE, and so on. Sincerely, I want to join with you in mourning the passing of a titan of science. May he rest in peace. Xin Lan, 12/22/2012
"I was saddened by the news of Nick Turro's death. He was an inspiration to many of us with his keen insights into chemical phenomena. He was a great teacher, and a good friend, whose support for others in their search for meaning in life was unique in the field. I will miss him." David Pratt, University of Vermont (Formerly at the University of Pittsburgh) 12/18/2012
"Such a great loss! Nick was a terrific person and a terrific scientist, and Sandy and Nick are among the greatest "Chemistry Couples" ever. Nick even worked in my little Dow basic research lab in Framingham, MA, one summer before going to Columbia." Fred McLafferty, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, 12/17/2012
"The “Nick Turro” compounds had special impact on our early mass spectrometry research at Purdue in the newly formed McLafferty group. I am honored to be co-author on Prof Turro’s 33th publication in 1967, with David S. Weiss, my grad school counterpart at Columbia and with Fred McLafferty. This paper culminated Nick and Fred’s collaboration on the parallels between photochemical and mass spectral reactions. As often happens in science one good thing leads to another. The pyruvic acid we studied had insufficient volatility for the standard mass spectrometry heated batch inlet and too much volatility for the direct introduction probe. This dilemma led to our invention of the cooled direct probe, and my own first publication in mass spectrometry. Fortuitously my best grad school friend Ed Chait had machining experience. Together we built the device in the Purdue Chemistry machine shop and then tested it on our beloved "Nick Turro compounds." I am saddened that Prof Turro will join us only in spirit for the upcoming McLafferty 90th birthday." Bill Haddon, owner, Talleyrand Winery, Kelseyville CA, 95451, 12/17/2012
"Prof. Nicholas Turro was a person of great knowledge, creativity, and insight who was very down to earth and approachable. I knew him as an undergraduate at Columbia College in the mid 1970's . A soft spoken man who was generous of his knowledge and time and acted like an ordinary person but had decidedly extraordinary talent. He was a true light unto others, so it is poetically fitting his field was photochemistry." Joel Chodos, MD, Columbia College 1975, P&S 1979, 12/5/2012
"I am very sad to hear about Nick Turro's passing. I knew him from my postdoctoral days with Jackie Barton and at BartonFest this past spring (2012). Nick was able to Skype in and share yet more results with us Barton alumni. Nick loved chemistry and was an inspiring figure to us all. I will always fondly remember him inviting me and my husband, at the last minute, to a wonderful dinner at Francesca Ottaviani's house in Florence, Italy, during the 1998 International Conference on Coordination Chemistry." Cathy Murphy, Peter C. and Gretchen Miller Markunas Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 12/2/2012
"Upon hearing the terribly sad news about Professor Nick Turro, I just do not know how to express my deep sorrow. Since I met him in the Pacifichem meeting in 2005 and started a joint research, he has led us through thestudy on various aspects of the molecule we synthesized, H2@C60, in the fields ranging from chemistry, physical chemistry, to physics. His ideas on the research have been always brilliant and he led us, the whole group, on the fullerenes with such great energy and enthusiasm that a lot of significant data and important facts have been disclosed and accumulated. I feel I owe him so much in using our compound and related compounds forelucidation of the widely ranging nature of a molecule of hydrogen and also in having greatly developed the chemistry and physical chemistry of this area. I cannot, and will not, forget his energetic attitude towardsresearch and his charming smile when the discussion was over. So long, Nick, thank you, Nick --I hope you will have peaceful sleep." Koichi Komatsu, Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University, Japan, 11/30/2012
"Nick was a wonderful citizen of the university, a joy to work with on university committees. His wisdom and humor were always in evidence, and I learned a lot from him. It is very sad to lose him so early." Roger Bagnall, Jay Professor of Greek and Latin and Professor of History, Emeritus, 11/29/2012
"Nick was a really lovely and inspiring man and a great scientist. I feel glad I had the opportunity to work with him, if only briefly. I didn't suspect how precious those moments were." Malcolm Leviitt, Professor of Chemistry, University of Southampton, 11/29/2012
"He was one of the pillars of the Department and a person who made a mark on so many people professionally and personally." Tatyana Polenova, Professor of Chemistry, University of Delaware, 11/29/2012
"I feel so lucky that I got to know and work with Nick - he was a tremendously creative chemist and an utterly unique and wonderful individual. One thing I learned about being a teacher/scholar from him was to be personable - how your research group was like family. Honestly, I will always admire how much he talked, shared and showed how much he loved his own family." Robert Beer, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry Fordham University, 11/29/2012