Finn, Robert K.
Robert Kaul Finn passed away peacefully in his sleep at home early Saturday morning, November 3, 2012. Bob was born May 3, 1920 to Myrtle (Kaul) Finn and Edward Finn in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His father, a Presbyterian pastor, built a cottage on Green Lake, beside the multi-denominational church camp he managed. The summers of Bob's early years were spent at the camp, swimming, playing tennis, and interacting with the progressive thinkers who were guest lecturers there. At Waukesha High School, he excelled at debate club and chemistry. In his senior year he was awarded a McMullen Scholarship in Chemical Engineering at Cornell, which in those days paid full tuition for 5 years ($300 per semester)! After high school graduation in 1937, he arrived by train in Ithaca to begin his studies at Cornell. He earned a B. Chem. degree in 1941 and a Chemical Engineering degree in I942. At Cornell he became a religious pacifist and was active in the Westminster Fellowship and an early member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. As a student, Bob was highly influenced by Hugh Moran, a Quaker who was also the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Ithaca. After graduation Bob worked at Merck and Co. in Rahway, NJ. It was the dawn of the antibiotic age, and he became engaged in the large-scale production of the first antibiotics - penicillin and streptomycin - using submerged culture of molds. These played a vital role during WWII
. In 1946, he left Merck to study at the Univ. of Minnesota, earning a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Applied Microbiology. There he met his future wife, Lucile Rasmussen, a nurse at University Hospital. They were married in 1949, and the same year moved to Champaign, IL, where Bob took a position as Assistant Professor at the Univ. of Illinois. In 1951 Lucile and Bob bicycled for the whole summer throughout Europe. In 1955 Bob, Lucile and their first two children moved to Ithaca, where he began a long and fruitful career as a professor of chemical engineering at Cornell. In 1957 Bob began building their house on West Hill, which was a work in progress as the family grew to five children. Bob enjoyed winemaking, helping to establish a group that made wine for the next 50 years. He and his family spent sabbatical years in Germany and Switzerland. He loved camping and the outdoors, leading his family on canoe trips to the Adirondacks and Algonquin Park, sailing a C-scow on Cayuga Lake with his sons, and skiing at Greek Peak into his 80's. He continued to be an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, enthusiastically serving on the peace and justice committee and providing a caring presence to ill members in the hospital. After finally retiring in 1990, he took a strong interest genealogy, traveling to Germany to find lost relatives. He was a man of many interests and had an intellectual thirst for philosophy and history. A favorite book recently was Marcus Borg's the Story of Christianity. His love of life and sense of humor was legendary. He will be deeply missed. He was predeceased by his daughter Mary and his sister Carolyn (Finn) Sola. In addition to his wife Lucile, he is survived by his children: David Finn (Page Laughlin) of Winston-Salem, NC; Louisa Finn of San Rafael, CA; John Finn (Kate) of Ithaca; and Helaina (Heidi Finn) Sorey (David) of Seattle, WA; his grandchildren Clare-Sophia Finn, Ariana Finn, Parrish Finn, Lucas Finn, and Miguel Sorey; his brother-in-law Thurman Rasmussen (Annette), his nephews Steven Sola, and Loredo Sola, and niece Cathleen (Sola) Cannon. A Memorial Service celebrating Bob's life will be held at 2 p.m., Sunday, December 2, at the First Presbyterian Church, Ithaca. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Nyack, NY. Bangs Funeral Home is assisting the family.