Elmer Gaden Jr.
Elmer L. Gaden Jr. Elmer L. Gaden Jr., 88, died on Saturday, March 10, 2012, in Charlottesville.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, he was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer Lewis and Gertrude McClellan Gaden.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 48 years, Jennifer; and daughter, Barbara (John Mann); and sons, David (Lilly) and Paul (Tina); grandchildren, Abagail and Hanna Gaden; and his "sweetheart" of a Shih Tzu, Maggie.

He is also survived by generations of chemical and biochemical engineers, to whom he was professor and mentor. Hailed universally as "the father of biochemical engineering," when asked of his greatest accomplishment, Elmer first mentioned teaching. After earning his Bachelor's, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from Columbia University, Elmer served on the faculty of Columbia University from 1949 until 1974, chairing the chemical engineering department for 12 years during that time. He also founded the leading journal, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, which he edited until 1983. After leaving Columbia, he became Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Business Administration at University of Vermont, but missed the classroom and, in 1979, resigned to become Wills Johnson Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia, a chair he held until his retirement in 1994, at which time the University of Virginia hosted a day-long symposium and banquet in his honor. Foremost among his many awards is the Fritz and Delores Russ Prize, recognized as one of engineering's highest honors, which he received in 2009. The Prize was awarded by the National Academy of Engineering and Ohio University for Elmer's pioneering research which enabled the large-scale manufacture of antibiotics such as penicillin. Other notable awards included the Egleston Medal for Distinguished Engineering Achievement (Columbia), an honorary Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Mac Wade Award from the students of University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Columbia's Great Teacher Award. In 2007, Columbia established the "Gaden Lecture" which brings a distinguished lecturer annually to the university. Also a passionate historian, he taught military history at Columbia and led informal day tours of Virginia's Civil War battlefields for students, colleagues and friends. A naval communications officer near the end of World War II, Elmer served proudly in the South Pacific. He loved to travel and had a keen and broad interest in the world and its people, regularly engaging strangers in discussions about their cultures and backgrounds. Never idle, he was constantly remodeling his houses (teaching his daughter basic carpentry in an era when women were expected to learn sewing), loved building model planes and ships and especially loved sharing Jennifer's love of nature.

In retirement, Elmer volunteered to teach illiterate adults how to read. Above all, he taught his children the values of education, self-reliance, hard work, and that success is not measured by money or awards. Even after his passing, Elmer remains a teacher, having donated his body to science.

A service celebrating his life will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, March 24, 2012, at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you make a contribution to the Hospice of the Piedmont which gave great comfort and support to him and his family at the end.


This obituary was originally published in the Daily Progress.
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Published by Daily Progress from Mar. 12 to Mar. 13, 2012.
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30 Entries
What a loving, caring and curious man Elmer was! His biography was written with love that he inspired — "Even after his passing, Elmer remains a teacher, having donated his body to science". Elmer leaves much more than a pyramid; he leaves minds that have grown, and values that endure.
Peter Hanson
May 1, 2012
I am truly saddened to hear of Elmer's passing. He was one of the last renaissance men, from a generation that contributed so much to the world in which we now live. As my graduate advisor, Elmer always provided keen, focused and simple advice that lit the way to success - for this I will always be thankful. Elmer was full of amusing anecdotes, many times at his own expense. He described his amusement at making port in La Jolla at the end of his Naval service, only to find out later that it was pronounced La Hoyja. He also told the story of peeling zuchinni and sharing stories with Issac Asimov while a grad student at Columbia - oh to have been present at those conversations! Elmer loved life and shared this love with all who knew him. And what a wonderful family! One can only hope to share a fraction of the blessings bestowed upon this great man. Au Revoir Elmer!
Rick Dauer
April 23, 2012
Professor Gaden cared for his students, not for just the class work that he taught, he inspired. I cherish my memories of him.
Yuli You
April 13, 2012
Elmer Gaden was a wonderful man and my life is better for having known him. His spontaneous joy, generosity and laughter will be missed.
Butler Stringfield
March 29, 2012
Mr. Gaden was my amazing advisor at UVA. I loved to hear his inspirational stories about the work he had done as well as his comical stories. As a female engineering student, Mr. Gaden never made feel less than or patronized which was impressive given the time and his generation.
Laura Kelly-Bush
March 26, 2012
My dad was a great father to all his family and to his wife Jenny. He would tell me from time to time, I'm happy to have such a wonderful family. I will miss him telling me about the best education he got form Brooklyn Tech and how he remembers meeting mom at Columbia. Mom, Barbara, Paul,Maggie and I all miss you Pop. You are one of a kind, and I'm glad you were my Dad, I Love You Dad.
David"Davey" Gaden, Charlottesville, VA
David Gaden
March 25, 2012
I cherish my memories of Mr. Gaden from my years as a UVa chemical engineering student. He is a man I will not, and for that matter could not, ever forget. He is quite possibly the most estimable people I ever met.
David Worley
March 24, 2012
Mr. Gaden was truly a wonderful teacher. To this day I recall his classroom lectures liberally sprinkled with historical stories and origins of the concepts we were learning.
Michael Dawson
March 22, 2012
I will always remember Mr. Gaden as not only being amazingly bright and insightful but as a truly caring man. From my first day at UVA when he gave me an extensive tour of the lawn to the many times he looked out for my well being during my days as a grad student. He is one of the most memorable persons I have ever met and feel honored to have known him.
Kathleen Johnston
March 22, 2012
Elmer Gaden will be remembered as a great human being. He was my advisor, always with a smile and positive attitude. We mourn his passing and celebrate his life!
Ivan Rios
March 21, 2012
Mr Gaden was a wonderful teacher, advisor, and friend. His joyful spirit will be greatly missed.
Karen Chamblee
March 21, 2012
I am deeply grieved on passing away of Prof. Gaden. He had been a very nice person and his joyful nature will never be forgotten. My sympathies to his family.

Sharad, MS ChE'1992
Sharad Gandhi
March 20, 2012
Prof. Gaden was my favorite professor and even today I remember him so clearly. I still laugh at his statement that an expert is a cross between a has-been and a drip. My condolences to his family and the UVA family. I will always hold a place in my heart for him.

ChE, Class of 1992.
David Maiorana
March 20, 2012
My condolences to the family. His passing is a great loss. I will always be grateful to Elmer for recruiting me to UVA. He has had a positive and lasting impact on my life.
Deborah Houle Barnette
March 20, 2012
Prof. Gaden was one of the best teachers I ever had. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to know him during my years at UVA. The world is a poorer place without him.
Jay Collie
March 20, 2012
I was very sad to hear the news of Professor Gaden's passing away. He was the Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at UVa when I was a Masters student there from 1985-1987. Professor Gaden was a remarkable individual, full or encouragement and words of wisdom to all of us as we embarked on our careers. His intricate knowledge of biochemical engineering was matched only by his passion for teaching and learning. I have never forgotten his warm smile, his New York accent and the time in my first week in Charlottesville when he saw me walking in town and pulled over in his pick up truck to say hello and have a chat! My deepest condolences to his family for their loss.
Siddhartha Ghose
March 20, 2012
I'm very sad to hear of Elmer Gaden's passing. My heartfelt sympathies and most sincere condolences go to his wife Jenny and his entire family. I met Elmer in the summer of 1985 when I first attended UVA as a graduate student. Soon, he became a mentor and a friend, always full of advice and eager to share many jokes. He took interest in all of his students and encouraged their personal growth as well as their career. For many years after graduation I corresponded with him and his wife and we kept in touch. Elmer's intelligence and curious mind drew many to him, his generous heart, great humour and positive outlook endeared him to all. I can still remember Elmer sharing his knowledge of history, cultures and wisdom with every story he told. He leaves behind an enduring legacy of service as he represented a positive, strong role model during my Chem E years at UVA. One could attest at his retirement party of all the lives he touched. It was truly a great pleasure and a privilege to have met Elmer. My life is all the richer for it.
Beatrice Pericles Monthioux (Toulouse, France)
Beatrice Pericles Monthioux
March 20, 2012
I'm very sorry to hear the passing of Mr. Gaden.

On Friday, March 9, I gave a presentation to my son's class titled, “What is a Chemical Engineer.” In one of the slides, I showed a picture of Mr. Gaden telling the story of his research and improvement in the fermentation process for making penicillin. It was a way of honoring him as one of my professors.
Mark Smith
March 20, 2012
I am very sorry to hear of Professor Gaden's passing. He was well loved by all his students (including me).

Tony Reynolds, SEAS (ChE 82, MSE 86, 90) Columbia, SC
Tony Reynolds
March 20, 2012
I graduated in 1983 and Dr. Gaden was my faculty advisor. I am now 51 years old and his impact on my life is actually growing. What a beautiful man and true teacher. My sympathies to the Gaden family.
Joe Dowd
March 20, 2012
From civil war naval history to shaken flask bioreactors...I won't soon forget my time with Elmer. My sympathy goes out to the Gaden family.
David Reed
March 20, 2012
Jenny,
Our sincere condolences. A wonderful man with an amazing legacy.
Ray & Lucille McGinley
March 20, 2012
My deepest sympathy to the Gaden family.
Sharon Shelton
March 19, 2012
Elmer and Jenny introduced my future wife, Susan, and I to each other at a dinner party at their home in Charlottesville. They "set us up". In doing so, they helped to create a wonderful life for us and our family. Elmer was a great judge of character and a true role model to all who knew him. He exemplified personal integrity, passion for learning, and the habit of sharing ideas freely with others. At the same time, he could roll up his sleeves and pitch in on any task with a friend, whether large or small. I remember him helping Susan with some tricky woodworking in the kitchen of her first home when she was a young faculty member in town. He did this simply out of kindness for a new colleague with whom he was teaching "design" to 1st year students at UVa. I will always remember his humility when, as one of the real founding fathers of the very significant field of biotechnology, he would characterize himself as just being in the opera (of life)- not as the lead tenor - but at least as one of the spear-carriers on stage. Elmer - we will miss you greatly and you inspired us all to take our turns on the stage of life. Jenny, our thoughts are with you. Tom and Susan Skalak
Tom Skalak
March 16, 2012
Elmer was brilliant, fun, told wonderful jokes and will be remembered for his love of knowlege and love for his wife, Jenny. From Eleanor Woods Washington, DC
March 15, 2012
I am proud to have been one of his ChE students at UVa back in the 1980's.
Carol Anderson
March 15, 2012
Jenny, we were so very sorry to hear of your dear Elmer's passing Monday night. We will pray God's comfort for you and your family.
Melody Day
March 14, 2012
Elmer was a great man and pioneer for his field. He was a man that I was honored to call grandfather.
Carlos Echevarria
March 13, 2012
I was a member of the first class of chemical engineering students that Elmer "advised," Columbia class of '54, about 20 students. I think it was a unit ops course he was teaching in which I was his barometer. If I was dozing, he'd open a window and ask me if it was okay for him to continue.

He took his role very seriously, was there when needed and did not put up with any nonsense. He shared our good moments with us and was a model for me in many ways as my professional career developed. We had great respect for him. He was a fine human being.
David Richman
March 13, 2012
Elmer was a truly great man. I am grateful to him for his many contributions to teaching, to UVa, and to the development of biochemistry. He was a kind and considerate colleague and I am saddened by his passing.
Alfred Weaver
March 12, 2012