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.