Dr. Robert G. Parr
1921 - 2017
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Dr. Robert G. Parr

September 22, 1921 - March 27, 2017

Chapel Hill

Dr. Robert G. Parr, emeritus Professor of Chemistry at UNC and resident of Chapel Hill, died quietly on March 27 after a brief illness. He was 95. A celebration of his life followed by a reception will be held at 2Pm on Friday, March 31 at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF)at 4097 Garrett Road In Durham. The family has suggested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to ERUUF. Walker's Funeral Home of Chapel Hill is honored to serve the Parr family. Online condolences may be offered at www.walkersfuneralservice.com

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Published in & The News and Observer on Mar. 30, 2017.
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42 entries
March 25, 2020
We would remember RGP as long as WE LIVE.
In point fact, RGP lives, through his crucial and pivotal contributions to Density Functional Theory that he nurtured and cherished to an extent that it had virtually become his religion!
He was so accommodating, so understanding, so avuncular and a father-figure to numerous DFT workers.
March 24, 2019
Our idol, Professor Dr. Robert Ghormley Parr alias "RGP", still lives...through his monumental works in the field of Quantum Chemistry and as one who "shaped the Destiny for Density"; as I have already written in these pages.
There is one incident I will forever remember during my post-doc at UNC, Chapel Hill: in early 1983, there was an advertisement for participation in the 1983-World Conference on Density Functional Theory in Lisbon, Portugal. I had rather casually applied for attending that event, without asking RGP, as he was away in California (there was no E-mail, there were no cell phones; and I was not aware of any of RGP's land-line telephonic contact(s) during those days!) and also because I never expected that my application would be taken seriously, given the stalwarts who would be attending. When he got back to Chapel Hill, I told him that "I had 'casually' applied with no expectations for being invited to participate".
He was visibly perturbed and he told me up front that it was 'so silly of me' that I had not asked him beforehand. I apologized and told him that, "Professor Parr, I would not attend the Conference if you forbade me to, for whatever reasons". His reply was, "Rajeev, I called you silly because I could have obtained some financial support for you, if you had just kept me in the loop when you had applied!" He did not stop at that. He obtained a Registration fee discount for me and a partial travel support and complete support for local hospitality! He told me later that no member of the RGP group should be meted a raw deal!

He cared. He was generous. He was magnanimous. He was a genius. He was avuncular.

Our beloved RGP --- was a rare Human Phenomenon!
January 6, 2018
I learned of Professor Parr's death just today and was saddened.
Although I was familiar with his work for a long time, I came to know him personally when he invited me to work in his research group, while arranging to teach his classes and a position of a visiting professor at UNC-CH for two years.
I tried to stay in contact with him and then this news!
May the Almighty shower His love on him, now and always!
Himanshoo Navangul
August 10, 2017
A Citizen of the World, a Great Scientist will be missed

Dear Jane,
Dear Members of the Parr Family,
Dear Acquaintances,

It was only today that I have learnt that Professor Robrt G.Parr passed away in March 2017. I am writing to say how saddened I am as is my son Jeremi. We both keep in fine memories our visit to Chapell Hill with my late husband Jacek during the years 1983-84. We all experienced at that time an outstanding hospitality from Jane and Bob Parr.
I also recall a beautiful ceremony carried out in 1996 at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where Jacek and myself have met Jane and Bob again on the occasion of Robert Parr getting the Doctor Honoris Causa Degree from the oldest Polish University established in 1364.
Jeremi and myself wish to express our heartfelt condolences to you, Jane, and to all members of the family.

Urszula Rychlewska, Adam Mickiewicz University, Pozna, Poland
Jeremi Rychlewski (a boy who was, and still is, very fond of maps)

Pozna, August 10, 2017, Poland
April 28, 2017
Quantum Chemistry has lost one of its most eminent members.
Prof. Parr was such an influential and important person in the field. He was always extremely kind, helpful and interested.
I also remember his creativity, his deep insights and his continuous flow of ideas.
Prof. Parr also was hugely important for me personally, always showing great interest for my research, being supportive and stressing the importance of persueing one's own ideas. He was a very gracious host in Chapel Hill, together with Mrs. Parr, among others, comforting me during my first longer period away from home without my family. I will never forget this.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Frank De Proft
Frank De Proft
April 17, 2017

Professor Dr. Robert Ghormley Parr--- A Scientist extraordinaire. A magnanimous human being. An endearing, avuncular figure in the quantum chemistry community.

I have had a unique opportunity of carrying out my postdoctoral research in the coveted R. G. Parr (RGP) group in the early to mid-eighties. Shortly after I joined the RGP-group, Professor Parr went on a long visit to Walter Kohn's Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. I had therefore a free hand, and the congenial atmosphere in the Parr group buttressed by constant encouragement by RGP (first through postal mail during his absence and later up front) himself led to my five publications from UNC in one year, but not a single one of them bore RGP's name! On one communication, I had put, in the authors' names, my own name followed by RGP's name, which he selflessly struck off from the manuscript and said that his name could appear at best in acknowledgment ---such magnanimity is unparalleled! Actually, I had sought some crucial explanations on the theme from RGP! I had been privileged to share my office with Weitao in the Parr-Palace' (that had become a cynosure of visitors to the Kenan Laboratory). I have seen how Weitao, with his dazzling brilliance and remarkable academic prowess and perseverance has become a torchbearer for enlightenment of fundamental DFT! I was fortunate to have run into Libero-Lee Bartolotti with whom I still have been --over a period of thirty years-- collaborating! Lee has been a friend, philosopher and guide while RGP has been my veritable role model! Whenever I visited UNC Chapel Hill several times to carry out my leftover research work; and was welcomed every time with ever so increasing empathy and warmth by Professor and Mrs. Parr. I have also had the unique privilege to stay with him at 701, Kenmore! Mrs. Jane Parr had been the tour de force for bonding the Parr household to the extended and Parr-family --- by extended I mean not only the kith and kin of the Parrs, but also the academic Parr family!

Many of us earnestly feel that the Nobel Prize should have been bestowed upon Professor Parr for his pioneering, fundamental, path-breaking and pivotal contributions such as an unequivocal identification and quantification of electronegativity and chemical hardness!

Whenever I get to hear the phrase par excellence I often used to think of it as Parr excellencebecause Parr' and excellence' cannot be separated! (I have re-iterated here what I had said in the Atlanta Parr Conference on the sidelines of ACS). From him, I learned that in one's pursuits and peregrinations in research, one has to be obsessed with academics; and carry it out with the concurrence of Head, Hand and Heart!

I think the following succinctly should express my feelings for Professor Parr

My salute to RGP the Wizard!

You, Sir, with your astounding genius, resourcefulness and tenacity
In your eternal quest for knowledge with bedazzling intensity
Imbibing in Chemical Physics for which you've always had the propensity
Have become the Wizard, who virtually shaped the Destiny for Density!!!!
--Rajeev K. Pathak
April 17, 2017
For a great scientist and a great man
Vincenzo Barone
April 16, 2017
Prof.Bob Parr: I had contacted Bob Parr in 1959-60 for my PhD after finishing my M.Sc in June 1960 from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Bob kindly accepted me for PhD at Carnegie-Mellon University starting June 1960 to work in his group in quantum chemistry. He had a fairly large group which included PDF's, PhD students and Visiting quantum chemists. However, I changed my mind and in stead decided to work in the Mecca of quantum chemistry , The University of Chicago with Profs. Robert S. Mulliken and C.C.J.Roothaan in Chemical Physics starting June 1960.
Bob Parr "understood" my lame excuses for going to U of Chicago and did not hold any grudge against me. He was a towering figure in Quantum chemistry and made remarkable contributions to this area and I saw him many Conferences and advanced Institutes notably the Sanibel Symposia where he lectured and took part in lively discussions on the topics under consideration. Many of his close associates and colleagues have pointed out his various contributions to quantum chemistry and I would not like to repeat these here. He always was very kind and gentle to me over more than 50 years and I came to know his gracious wife Jane and beautiful and bright daughter. To me he was a legend and I feel proud to have known him as an inspirer, closed friend and a most celeberated colleague. We hall all miss him and our heartfelt condolences to Jane. Gulzari Malli
April 15, 2017
I first met Bob Parr in the summer of 1974 while I was a raw graduate student. He surprised me with words of encouragement after my short presentation at the Ottawa CSTC. I then had the good fortune to spend three months that fall as a visiting grad student in his UNC lab. His mentoring, strong encouragement, and support since then were extremely important to me.

I'll miss your open-minded and nurturing style. Farewell, Bob.
Ajit Thakkar
April 11, 2017
Dr. Parr taught our thermodynamics P-Chem class a little over 40 years ago. I remember him looking at one note the entire time he taught.
He did have the hardest time convincing us that silver was not an ideal gas. A brilliant man!!!
James Whinna
April 10, 2017
Students and collaborators of Bob often talk about "Parr's question", a question which is really unexpected and unusual.
I came to UNC in 1983 and very quickly learned what such a question means. A few months after my arrival Bob came to my office and asked: "If you have to introduce temperature in an atom, how would you do it?" What?! Before I said something, Bob was already writing formulas explaining why and from where this question appeared. All this sounded very interesting and I was hooked on the idea of temperature in the atom. In few months later a visitor to Parr's lab a fellow from India ,Swapan Gosh, arrived and three of us had many exciting conversations in Bob's office dealing with the initial Bob's question. The most interesting conversations were on Friday afternoons. Different "crazy" ideas were proposed and discussed. These discussions were summarized in a number of papers on local thermodynamics inside a molecule and were foundations for what is called today qualitative DFT. I enjoyed that time tremendously and, I think, so were Bob and Swapan.

Bob was a scientific father figure for all of us, students and colleagues. He left us and we feel orphaned. But we should be grateful that he was in our life.
Max Berkowitz
April 9, 2017
I knew Prof. Parr mostly through his writing and through his students --- first Joseph Capitani when he was doing a postdoc in Wisconsin, then Weitao Yang and Paul Ayers. Bob Parr and his students showed that rare and precious creativity that brings originality to our field.

He shall be missed.
Mark E. Casida
April 9, 2017
Robert Parr was a great scientist. He attained several important achievements in quantum chemistry and especially in density functional
theory. His work was always totally original. He showed a fantastic creativity. He brought several very fruitful new ways of thinking.
He was able to foresee new areas of investigation. For example, he started to explore the relationship of information theory with density functional theory as early as 1980. I recollect our interesting discussions on information entropy and thermodynamic picture of density functional theory.
I am very lucky to have known this remarkable scientist.

I visited him several times at Chapel Hill. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with Bob and his group. We had a joint collaboration and I was privileged that Bob and Jane spent some days in Debrecen.

Bob and Jane considered and treated me as a family member. I recollect with fond remembrance their unparallel hospitality.

My deeply felt condolences to Jane and Parr family.
Ágnes Nagy
April 9, 2017
Our first association with Professor Parr and Mrs. Jane Parr goes back to September 1978. Parrs were kind enough to host us for about a week in 701, Kenmore. Mrs. Parr introduced Meena to 'several international wives' in Chapel Hill.
I have learned so much from Professor Parr (both personally and professionally) that no words are adequate to describe it. His direct and simple approach to scientific problems was so impressive! I wish we could follow his great scientific values.
We cherish their visit to our house in India and are grateful for his support to multiple scientific visits to his group between 1980 to 1998.
We have lost a father figure in quantum chemistry.
Our condolences to Mrs. Parr and the bereaved family.
Shridhar and Meena Gadre
Shridhar and Meena Gadre
April 9, 2017
Bob Parr was an outstanding scientist and person. I will always keep nice memories from our science and personal conversations.

Our sincere condolences to Jane and Parr family,

Jolanta and Andrés
Andrés Cedillo
April 9, 2017
Bob Parr was an outstanding chemist and person. I will always keep the nicest memories form our science and personal talks.

Our condolences to Jane and Parr family,

Jolanta and Andrés
Andrés Cedillo
April 8, 2017
I began my career as a graduate student by reading Parr and Yang. A year later, I had the great fortune of meeting Parr at the DFT meeting in Duke in 1997. He was then, as he always has been, extremely supportive of younger scientists. When I was a postdoc, I visited him in 2001 and had the pleasure of staying with him and Jane; as he was my advisor's postdoctoral advisor, it was really like staying with grandparents!

I will always remember his encouragement and support and his legacy lives on in the countless quantum chemists in the next generation who benefitted from his wisdom and guidance.

Garnet Chan
April 8, 2017
April 8, 2017

It is unbelievable in sudden sad news of Professor Robert G. Parr. It is a place I want to visit to your comfort immediately, thoughtfully to your heartache, but now I pray for the souls from faraway places.

Akitomo Tachibana, Kyoto, Japan
Akitomo Tachibana
April 8, 2017
April 8, 2017

It is unbelievable in sudden sad news of Bob Parr. It is a place I want to visit to your comfort immediately, thoughtfully to your heartache, but now I pray for the souls from faraway places.

Akitomo Tachibana, Kyoto, Japan
April 8, 2017
Bob Parr, a towering figure in Quantum Chemistry and one of the discipline founders, had a lasting inluence on my scientific life. I still remember pieces of professional advice He gave me in 1976, when we met for the first time, and I try to follow them ever since. I have admired His contagious enthusiasm for new ways of approaching classical issues in science, and for conceptual developments in theoretical chemistry. I felt honoured by His frienship and I took for granted His presence in science. Now, that He is gone, I will miss Him very much indeed.
My deeply felt condolences to Jane and Parr family.
Roman Nalewajski
April 8, 2017
Bob Parr, a towering figure in Quantum Chemistry and one of the discipline founders, had a lasting influence on my scientific life. I still remember and try to follow pieces of professional advice He gave me when we met for the first time in 1976. I've allways admired His contagious enthusiasm for new ways of approaching classical issues in chemistry and for conceptual developments in theoretical chemistry. I was honoured by His friendship and grateful for encouragement over many years of our collaboration. I have taken for granted His "permanent" presence in Science and now, that He is gone, I will miss Him very much indeed.
April 7, 2017
What a wonderful man! All who have met Bob will remember this most exceptional great man of science and his unique outstanding achievements. His multi-tasking abilities and interests were by no means limited to sciences, he and Jane loved to travel, and they enjoyed music and fine wines together. Bob was consistently against the arms lobby and spoke up for controlling the arms sale to everybody.

My deeply felt condolences to Jane,


László von Szentpály
László von Szentpály
April 6, 2017
Our friend, Robert G. Parr, a prominent and influential scientist has departed us. His efforts to establish quantum chemistry as a discipline on the level of physical chemistry and chemical physics ranged from his work on the proceedings of the Shelter Island meeting 1951 through the construction of the Pariser-Parr-Pople model as a vehicle for electronic structure analysis of spectra and properties to the eloquent contributions to density functional theory as a means for molecular studies has earned my deep respect. He remarked kindly to me about a small contribution of mine on the beta-parameter of PPP-usage and my wife and I had occasion to enjoy the hospitality of the Parrs in their benzene-house. His legacy as a warm and thoughtful colleague and true scientist who rose above academic bickering will always be with me.

Jan Linderberg
April 6, 2017
Bob Parr was a major guiding light for research in quantum chemistry in Chile. He always impressed me with profound and yet simple ideas on chemical reactivity. Rest in Peace.
Alejandro Toro-Labbe
April 6, 2017
I had the deepest respect for R. Parr as a scientist, but more importantly, in the little community of such high profile scientists, his ethical sense was second to none.

Patrick Cassam-Chenaï
April 6, 2017
A great scientist, Robert G. Parr, lives in our memory and study forever.
Zhong-Zhi Yang
April 6, 2017
A great scientist, Robert G. Parr, lives in our memory and study forever.
Zhong-Zhi Yang
April 4, 2017
Our family (wife Aloka, son Shaunak)considers itself as blessed to have been associated with Dr. Robert (Bob) G. Parr at UNC, Chapel Hill.It was like a pilgrimage for us then, and it will so remain forever.Having brought out, with cooperation of a multitudes of Bob's admirers, two Festschrift volumes on his 80th in celebrations of his scientific contributions, I experienced- it was like a drop in Ocean of Knowledge, Human Values, Love, and Charisma, that Bob personified all his life.
K.D. Sen
April 4, 2017
When I finished my thesis, I wondered whether I should continue working on density functional theory. At that time it was despised in chemistry, except by a few people, the most prominent being Prof. Parr. During a conference break, I went to him, and asked him for an advice. He told me that he will give me the answer he always gives to such questions: "Follow your own ideas!". I followed his advice, and gave it to my students. This was what he had always done, and hopefully will be followed by future generations of scientists.
Andreas Savin
April 4, 2017
Andreas Savin
April 4, 2017
No doubt his contributions to quantum chemistry will remain valuable sources of inspiration for many generations to come.

My sincere condolences to his family.
Patrick Bultinck
April 3, 2017
Bob was a great mentor for me and I have always appreciated his continuing support and friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed our long lunches together during the times I spent with his group in Chapel Hill. He encouraged me to explore unfamiliar territory, getting out of my comfort zone. He shaped our thinking. He will be sorely missed.
Bob Morrison
April 3, 2017
The 1st picture taken by PKC with RGP in 1990
Shubin Liu
April 3, 2017
The last picture taken with RGP on Jan 20, 2017
Shubin Liu
April 3, 2017
RGP and PKC in 2013 in RGP's Kenmore house
Shubin Liu
April 3, 2017
PKC with RGP in 2013
The world has lost a great scientist and a great human being. I personally have lost my father for the second time. My first visit to Chapel Hill was in 1990 when I was a bachelor. In 1994 I went there with my family when our daughter, Babui was about three years' old. Professor Parr and Mrs. Parr have been so affectionate towards us that we realized the finer qualities of a human being which is hardly seen these days.

When we reached Chapel Hill in 1994, Professor Parr told us that for the first three months you should spend your time by sight-seeing only. After a stint of almost one year there, when Professor Parr and Mrs. Parr had come to RDU to see us off we all were weeping which we will never forget. Professor Parr will remain with us forever. When I met him in September 2013 in 701 Kenmore Road house I did not anticipate that it was our last meeting. Our heart-felt condolences for the bereaved family.
Pratim Kumar Chattaraj
April 3, 2017
My deepest condolences to his family
Patricio Fuentealba
April 2, 2017
The world has lost a legendary figure. The field of theoretical chemistry lost a giant, a pioneer. We, as his students, lost a teacher, a role model. His contributions to the world of science are uncountable. Our loss is unmeasurable.

The first day I came to his lab, Bob gave me two rules. 1. I do not care how many hours a day you work in office. 2. The least junior person in the lab makes coffee! These two rules guided the everyday life of my Ph.D experience. I worked all day and night and I got really great at making coffee.

Jokes aside, Bob is the reason why I am standing here today. Not only did he grant me the honor of working under him as his student, but he was also the reason that I kept staying in Chapel Hill. When my spoken English was bad, Bob taught me to talk out. He said to me Your English is much better than my Chinese!, which was certainly true even to this day. For me, coming to a new land at the age of 30 was not easy. But with Bob's support, encouragement and guidance, I was able to navigate the rough waters of learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture, and having a family of my own.

During my postdoc days with Bob, he often came to office in the afternoon and we then started talking and writing on blackboard for two to three hours. At the end of each conversation, his last sentence was always the same: It's fun, isn't it? While I'm sure he was referring to the joy he got from the arguments between a professor and his student, that period of time was one of the happiest times of my life. That's the period of time when I learned not only how to speak English, but also how to conduct research and most importantly, how to be a good person. All thanks to Bob.

About 5 years ago, my family invited Jane and Bob to have dinner together. My older daughter, Caroline, asked Bob a question: What is the secret of success? Bob paused for a few seconds. His reply was one simple word: open-mindedness. As all of his students and postdocs may relate, this answer is oddly similar to Bob's giant scissors that he always kept in his office. It was short, a little bit harsh but life-changing nevertheless.

Bob, thank you for all the wisdom that you have blessed us with, for your influence that has changed our lives forever. The science you left behind will never be forgotten. You will be always remembered in our mind, in our papers and books.

Goodbye Bob, you will forever live in our hearts!
Shubin Liu
March 31, 2017
Among my finest memories of my years at UNC-CH are those relating to being a colleague of Bob Parr. He set the bar for excellence, independence and the value of pure human endeavor based on thought. He more that anyone I knew, thought about what he was going to say, before he said it. To me personally, he was generous, encouraging, challenging and genuinely fun in discussion. He is one of a small selection of scientists who saw early on what the unfolding rules of quantum mechanics meant to chemistry, through the ultimate calculation of the properties of individual molecules and their reacting clusters,. Since that early vision, he dedicated his scientific life to providing, with the help of some remarkable students, an interface between abstract mathematics and the practical laboratory. His has been a superbly accomplished life well lived!
Lee Pedersen
March 30, 2017
Deepest sympathy to Jane and the Parr family. Bob was an outstanding scientist, and also a kind, gentle person, who taught us by word and by example.
Joseph Capitani
March 30, 2017
Professor Parr was an amazing person with tremendous integrity . He was my research advisor as a post doctoral student in the late 1960s. I'm still amazed that he was able to run such a large research group yet take a genuine personal interest in each and every person. In addition he was one of the most influential Quantum Chemists of the 20th century. My sympathies go out to his lovely wife and his family.
Alexander Mazziotti
March 29, 2017
Bob Parr was a great name in the golden age of Quantum Chemistry. He shall be missed.
Jack Sabin
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