Dr. Walter Lwowski, emeritus research professor of chemistry at New Mexico State University passed away on April 19. Professor Lwowski was born on December 28, 1928 in the Bavarian Alps city of Garmish, Germany. He received his higher education at Heidelberg University receiving his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1955. Thereafter, he immigrated to the United States. Dr. Lwowski did postdoctoral work first with Donald Cram at UCLA from 1955 to 1957 and then with Robert Woodward at Harvard from 1957 to 1960. He worked with Professor Woodward on the total synthesis of chlorophyll for which Professor Woodward won the Noble Prize in Chemistry. He joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at Yale University in 1960. In the 1964 New Mexico State University started its Ph. D. program in chemistry, and the University was fortunate to hire Professor Lwowski away from Yale in 1966 to help develop the NMSU graduate program in organic chemistry. As a Research Professor in Chemistry he not only played a major role in the building the graduate program in chemistry, he also developed an international representation in nitrene chemistry and nitrogen heterocyclic chemistry. Professor Lwowski taught numerous masters, doctoral and postdoctoral students. His research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others, and he was the author of many seminal research publications in nitrene and heterocyclic chemistry.
Prof. Lwowski was a unique individual who learned English by reading instrument repair manuals as a graduate student. In so doing he developed his lifelong interest in electronics and scientific instrumentation. He was a world class expert in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and his diligence in keeping these machines up and running contributed heavily to the research productivity in the Department of Chemistry. His expertise in NMR instrumentation also played a role in the development of the chemistry graduate program at the University of Texas at El Paso. According to Professor Herndon of UTEP, when UTEP's first NMR instrument was being unloaded at the Physical Science Building, the workers dropped the instrument. Professor Lwowski came to the rescue and had the instrument running in just a few hours.
He was of the old school. However, and rarely appeared in public without his customary suit and tie. It was very common to see Prof. Lwowski emerge from the dusty recesses of an instrument console or from under his car when he changed the oil in a suit and tie. Prof. Lwowski loved hiking and hiked the Organs Mountains from one end to the other- but always in a suit (no tie , however). Walter loved classical music and compiled an extensive collection of recorded music. He was also a patron of the El Paso and Las Cruces Symphonies.
Professor Lwowski retired in 1991 but retained an office and laboratory in the Department after his retirement. During his retirement he helped maintain the Department's research instrumentation, and he built chemistry demonstration equipment for undergraduate instruction. Professor Lwowski also did a great deal of traveling during his retirement frequently visiting friends in Germany, Austria and Thailand but always looked forward to returning to Las Cruces, which he truly considered his home. Professor Lwowski is survived by a brother, Hans Lwowski of Redding, CA and three nieces: Ulrike McConnell of Colorado Springs, CO, Annette Beazell of Anderson, CA and Christine Rose of San Jose, CA. At his request, cremation will take place and no services are planned.
Arrangements by Getz Funeral home corner of Solano and Bowman Ave., Las Cruces, NM 526-2419. To sign the local online guest book go to www.GetzFuneralHome.com
Published by Las Cruces Sun-News on Apr. 25, 2010.