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Henry Hilgard

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Henry Hilgard Obituary
Henry Rohrs Hilgard

9 Oct., 1936 - 13 Apr., 2013

Henry R. Hilgard died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California. He had lived a rich and active life for 76 years. He was among the first group of biology department faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz, arriving in Santa Cruz with his wife, Galen and their three young daughters in 1967.

A gifted teacher, Henry received "The Distinguished Teaching Award" at UCSC in the 1990's. He loved synthesizing complex information and presenting his knowledge in a unique and clear way. He deeply enjoyed sharing ideas with colleagues, friends, and family whether the topic related to history, science, medicine, numismatics, or life. Known for his upbeat and engaging style, he could picture and analyze serious subjects, and make people laugh. As Henry's friend, Sheridan Downey wrote, "for me his counsel, insight and common sense were the gold standard, as they were for his wife, daughters and grandchildren."

Fascinated by the study of immunology, Henry carried out research in this field for many years, and kept abreast of new immunological findings until the day he died. Henry received an "Established Investigatorship of the American Heart Association," among other grants. His immunology and human biology courses were among the most popular classes in biology at UCSC, and he played a key role in the introduction of several "non-major" biology courses at the university, such as "Cardiovascular Disease and Health," and "AIDS: Perspectives on an Epidemic." Henry enjoyed serving on the Premedical Advisory Committee at UCSC, and he had great admiration for his students, many of whom went on to become physicians, biologists and science writers. He served as chair of Biology at UCSC from 1989 - 1992, becoming emeritus in 1994.

Henry co-authored the book, "The Biology of People" with Sam Singer (published by W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, in 1978.)

Born and raised in Palo Alto, California, Henry was the son of Josephine Rohrs Hilgard and Ernest R. Hilgard, professors at Stanford University. Henry received his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, his M.D. at Stanford University, and having developed a strong interest in research and teaching, he subsequently earned a PhD in the field of microbiology at University of Minnesota. An exciting predoctoral stint was pivotal in Henry's science career when he worked with Nobel Prize winner Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet in Melbourne, Australia. Galen and their baby daughter, Julia, accompanied him; and the whole family stayed in many wonderful cities over the arc of Henry's career.

Between 1968 and 1970, Henry served as Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, working as a scientist in Bethesda, Maryland, and in San Francisco, California.

Henry's passions included the natural sciences, numismatics, walking with friends, and taking adventurous trips with Galen. He also enjoyed working outdoors, sports, reading, music, dance and theater. He was a fan of the 49ers and SF Giants. His great joy was talking and visiting with his daughters and their husbands, and playing with his six grandchildren.

Henry is survived by his wife of 53 years, Galen Howard Hilgard, by his daughters and their husbands, Julia Hilgard Ritter and John Ritter of Ligonier, PA, Galen Rohrs (Hilgard) Roll and Gunnar Roll of Santa Cruz, and Adaline Josephine Hilgard and Kyle Noone, of San Francisco, and by his grandchildren, Madaline and Clayton Ritter, Turner and Adaline Roll, and Josephine and Kellen Noone. He is also survived by his sister, Elizabeth Jecker and her husband, Jery Jecker, of San Luis Obispo, and their two grown children; and by many beloved cousins and friends.

A celebration of Henry's life will be held Saturday July 6th at 2:00 pm, at the First Congregational Church at 900 High Street, Santa Cruz, California.

A contribution in Henry's memory may be made to the American Heart Association, to The Nature Conservancy, to Shakespeare Santa Cruz, or to a charitable organization of one's choice.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 19, 2013
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