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In Memoriam: Harry Pardue

2020-06-05

Writer(s): Steve Scherer

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Our colleague, Emeritus Professor Harry Pardue recently passed away at the age of 86.

Born on May 3, 1934 in Big Creek, West Virginia, he earned a B.S. (1956) and M.S. (1957) at Marshall College (now Marshall University) and a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in 1961.

Pardue came to Purdue in 1961 where he worked in the areas of automation, computer applications in chemistry, kinetic measurements and computations, new spectroscopic detection systems, and problems related to clinical and bioanalytical chemistry.

“Harry’s research was outstanding. This was the case early in his career when he and Sam Perone made Purdue a world center for the microelectronics revolution that was sweeping analytical chemistry. It was also true later, when he became one of the first analytical chemists to tackle clinical chemistry measurements using automated kinetic determinations of enzyme activity and algorithms to improve data quality,” explained Professor R. Graham Cooks.

An Analytical faculty member from 1962-1981, Sam Perone was hired one year after Pardue came to Purdue.

“Shortly after my arrival, Buck Rogers [division head] gave me perhaps the best advice of my career. 'You want to be successful?' he asked. 'Watch Harry.' And that’s what I did. Harry was doing all the right things—publications, talks and grants. Most impressive to me, though, he acted like an established professor. He seemed to know the right things to say and when to say them. He mixed comfortably with academic colleagues. I was envious and observant,” remembered Perone, a retired San Jose State University Professor of Chemistry.

“Harry was among the analytical faculty that hired me and became a wonderful mentor to someone just out of graduate school. He excelled in research, teaching, administration, and professional activities. This made him a unique role model for all aspects of a young professor's career. Harry was my favorite journal editor because he had both a superb grasp of the science, and a social understanding of all the different personalities involved in the process. He was simply first class in all that he accomplished,” remembered Dr. Fred Lytle, Corporate Fellow at Indigo BioAutomation and a former Analytical faculty member from 1968-2008.

Dr. John Towns, Senior Research Fellow at Eli Lilly who earned a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry in 1991, said it was an easy choice to ask Pardue to serve on his committee.

“What I remember most about Dr. Pardue is how interested he was in all aspects of chemistry. Although my research in capillary electrophoresis was far afield from his research area, Dr. Pardue was always interested in what I was trying uncover with my research. He was not only interested in the research and the papers we were submitting for publication, but loved to hear how this research could be used by others and out in the world,” recalled Towns.

Pardue served as head of the Analytical Division from 1969-1975 and led the department as head from 1983-87. He retired in 2002.

“Harry and his wife Mary were a spectacular couple – people who knew how to be kind, both with strong professional lives (hers in nursing) but also people who knew how to enjoy life. Harry was always very much at home with himself, with a quiet confidence that made him reassuring to be around,” Cooks remembered. 

(The family is planning a Celebration of Life later this year and we will update those details.) Dr. Pardue's Obituary


In addition, we are collecting memories from Dr. Pardue’s colleagues and students. Please share them with us at chemnews@purdue.edu

We will compile these remembrances and send them the Pardue Family. Here’s what we have so far:

Harry and his wife Mary were a spectacular couple – people who knew how to be kind, both with strong professional lives (hers in nursing) but also people who knew how to enjoy life. Harry was always very much at home with himself, with a quiet confidence that made him reassuring to be around.  He played an important role as Department Head for five years. Before that he served as Head of the Analytical Chemistry division where the Wednesday ‘anfac’ lunches which were important occasion ….relaxed, often funny, but also an opportunity to conduct serious divisional business. Often the best part of a hard week, with Dale Margerum, Fred Lytle, Ben Freiser, Hilkka Kenttamaa, Fred Regnier and Scott McLuckey and many others. Harry was admirable also in not being one-dimensional. He maintained an impressive garden in his and Mary’s home on the banks of Wildcat Creek. 

Harry’s research too was outstanding, this was the case early in his career when he and Sam Perone made Purdue a world center for the microelectronics revolution that was sweeping analytical chemistry.  It was also true later, when he became one of the first analytical chemists to tackle clinical chemistry measurements using automated kinetic determinations of enzyme activity and algorithms to improve data quality.  He served as one of the Editors of Analytica Chemica Acta, a leading journal in the field. His greatest achievement was his education of graduate students.  Research groups are like families….no one on the outside really knows the inner organism….but Harry’s list of superb Ph.D. students and associates speaks to the quality of the training and the inspiration that he provided.  Names include Sarah Rutan, John Skoug, Dave Rossi, Doug Goeringer, John Landis, Bob Santini, Mike Milano, Stan Deming and many others who have made wonderful careers in academics or in industry.

Harry was important to me professionally.  My first Purdue teaching assignment had me splitting Chemistry 116 with him and his systematic teaching helped ground me in this activity.  

I ran into Harry and his granddaughter in Starbucks in West Lafayette about two years ago and he was clearly – as always - happy for the hand life had dealt him.

Graham Cooks, June 2, 2020

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With Dr. Pardue’s research lab right next to ours on the 4th floor of Brown, there were many opportunities throughout my grad school years to interact with Dr. Pardue.  I remember my first encounter with Dr. Pardue asking me about my research.  I stuttered and stammered for the first minute, but he was very patient with me and listened intently on what I was trying to accomplish.  Once I got going and hit my stride on how I was going to save the world with my research (these were my first months of research), Dr. Pardue, through a series of questions, helped me focus down a bit on practical plans, all without stamping out my new grad student, first-time getting the equipment running enthusiasm.

What I remember most about Dr. Pardue is how interested he was in all aspects of chemistry.  Although my research in capillary electrophoresis was far afield from Dr. Pardue’s research area, Dr. Pardue was always interested in what I was trying uncover with my research.  Dr. Pardue was not only interested in the research and the papers we were submitting for publication, but loved to hear how this research could be used by others and out in the world.  He also showed a very paternal side when he kept coming back to the safety latches being engaged on the power supply to the electrodes…so I didn’t kill myself. 

Dr. Pardue was always willing to offer help where/when needed.  When I had needed a fume hood to run a rather volatile organic reaction, it was Dr. Pardue who offered up a fume hood with blast shield in his lab area to help provide the needed space and equipment.  He came over when I was setting up the reaction equipment, probably to assure I didn’t blow myself up.  [Now that I think back on it, maybe Dr. Pardue was less interested in my research and just making sure I didn’t kill myself through electrocution or explosion.]

When it was time to pick my PhD committee, it was an easy choice to ask Dr. Pardue to serve on my committee.  When I gave a seminar on my research to the department in my 4th year, it was Dr. Pardue who asked the first question, an insightful question on uses of my research that allowed me to jump into aspects of where the research had larger implications and uses.  It was a typical Dr. Pardue question where he was asking a pointed question, but then wanted to see where you would take it, giving the student the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.  That was Dr. Pardue, very inquisitive, extremely helpful and always supportive!

John Towns, June 3, 2020

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"Harry was among the analytical faculty that hired me and became a wonderful mentor to someone just out of graduate school.  He excelled in research, teaching, administration, and professional activities.  This made him a unique role model for all aspects of a young professor's career.  Harry was my favorite journal editor because he had both a superb grasp of the science, and a social understanding of all the different personalities involved in the process.  He was simply first class in all that he accomplished."

–Fred Lytle, June 4, 2020

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Harry Pardue arrived at Purdue University in 1961 as a young assistant professor with a fresh PhD from the University of Illinois. He had worked with Howard Malmstadt there and, like his mentor, was one of a new breed of analytical chemist in that era with cutting-edge expertise in electronics and instrumentation. He quickly established a productive research program at Purdue, marking him as one of the leading young analytical researchers.

There was an air of excitement in the early 1960s about the analytical program at Purdue. The recent hiring of Professor L. B. (Buck) Rogers from M.I.T. to head the Purdue division that already included Dale Margerum, Tom DeVries and the Emeritus M. G. Mellon, signaled a promising future. The addition of Harry Pardue and his rapid rise ramped up anticipation of great things to come.

I was hired one year after Harry, as another neophyte PhD assistant professor. Shortly after my arrival, Buck Rogers gave me perhaps the best advice of my career. “You want to be successful?” he asked. “Watch Harry.”

And that’s what I did. Harry was doing all the right things—publications, talks and grants. Most impressive to me, though, he acted like an established professor. He seemed to know the right things to say and when to say them. He mixed comfortably with academic colleagues. I was envious and observant.

As Buck had predicted, Harry’s successes would be my benchmarks. But our relationship became much more than that. We collaborated in the presentation of groundbreaking courses on microelectronics and laboratory computers. We collaborated on chemical education research. And we collaborated on instrumentation research.

But most importantly, we became good friends. Lively bridge games and carefree parties with grad students helped the young academicians blow off steam. Most memorable, though, were the touch football games every fall. Because we were invariably playing on opposite teams, Harry and I squared off frequently, and I had the collection of bruises to show it.

I haven’t related here the numerous academic and professional honors that eventually came to Harry during his career. Rather, I wanted to provide a snapshot of the young professor who was my colleague at the beginning of our careers. He was a good friend; a consummate professional; and a bright, productive researcher. It was no surprise that he built a vibrant research program that attracted talented graduate students and produced a large number of PhDs who have made their marks in industrial, clinical and academic circles.

Sam Perone, June 4, 2020

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Harry Pardue was convinced that Laboratory Medicine (Clinical Chemistry) should be a big part of analytical chemistry as the discipline transitioned over several decades from focusing on elements to including more about molecules.  That transition paralleled the evolution of electronic chemical instrumentation, a strategic strength of Midwest universities in general and Purdue in particular.

Harry was key to adding more analytical faculty with clinical interests and I was very fortunate to be recruited from Michigan State.  Harry and I shared an office/lab module in Brown.  Harry was careful about reporting data that could be trusted.  He was equally meticulous about language as an editor.  He was calm and always polite.

Faculty of his generation had a dignity that my generation often failed to uphold.  Harry cared deeply for Purdue, for teaching, and for analytical chemistry as a discipline. His contributions to measurement science were substantial and catalyzed the careers of students who then became leaders in the healthcare sector and in chemical instrumentation firms. 

–Pete Kissinger, June 8, 2020

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I first met Harry Pardue as an entering graduate student when I took a class from him.  I appreciated his very systematic and highly organized teaching style, which today I continue to try to emulate, and his frequent pauses to give advice on how to navigate graduate school and a career in science.  The Analytical Division was already highly rated in those days and Harry was one of the pillars of the program.  As I recall at that time, his group was exploring the use of vidicon tubes for array detection in one of the many collaborations between the analytical faculty and the Amy Facility.  Key to Harry’s success in research was his talent in developing novel instrumentation and, as a result, his students were exceptionally strong in this regard.  I was privileged to work closely with two of them, Bob Santini, a long-time director of the Amy Facility, and Doug Goeringer, an exceptional scientist and one of my very best friends, during my time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  They both often related lessons that they had learned from Harry.

When I returned to Purdue as a faculty member, Harry took my wife, Jean, and I to dinner where we thoroughly enjoyed his warmth, grace, and keen sense of humor.   As usual, he gave us very valuable advice and insights about life in Lafayette and in the department.  When Harry announced his retirement, I agreed to take over an undergraduate class he had been teaching and, in preparation, decided to sit in on the first few lectures.  I learned so much that I thought, “Wow, I’d better sit in the whole semester!”, which I subsequently did.  Harry was truly an outstanding teacher.  He was also an outstanding scholar, as reflected in his award-winning research, and an outstanding contributor to the scientific community through his work as department head, journal editor, etc.  Harry did everything well.  Through his example and generosity, Harry had a major impact on his students, the department, and his colleagues in his years at Purdue.  Mine is one of many lives that he touched.

–Scott A. McLuckey, June 11, 2020

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I always had the highest respect for Harry Pardue.  As a colleague, I always found him to be positive and pleasant to be around.  My only complaint was that he always wanted to teach the equilibrium section of what was CHM 116 at the time!  At the end of his career at Purdue, I recall that Harry put considerable time and effort into undergraduate teaching, including the design of laboratory experiments.  It was Emerson who said ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.  I mention that because years after Harry retired, when my own career was winding down, I took a page out of his book, did the same, and took great satisfaction in doing so.

–David McMillin, June 11, 2020

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Dr. Pardue was always a great teacher and I am so happy to have the gen chem textbook by Bodner and Pardue on my shelf; we used it in CHM 115-116 in 1996-98 when I was just starting grad school in the department. 

In Fall 1997 I was the course supervisor for CHM 116 with Dr. Pardue and Dr. Nash, and Harry opened the course with a poll of the students about their opinion of chemistry.  He asked them to respond to each transparency that he put on the projector.  “Chemistry is interesting.” A little response.  “Chemistry is awesome.” A few people respond. “Chemistry sucks.” WTHR 200 goes wild!  Harry would then explain to the class that chemistry really is awesome, with all the ways that it is involved in life and how we can’t do without it, how important it is to understand, and how he wants to help the students understand it. 

These days, with everyone having cameras at the ready, there would be tons of photos of the professor showing “chemistry sucks” on the screen, but alas, I only have the memory and probably filed away somewhere the lecture notes I took to file a copy of in the Resource Room; I know that I wrote a synopsis of this in the notes.

Harry was an outstanding teacher with warmth and character and was genuinely interested in the success of his students, from the PhD level to the freshman level.  It was a privilege to be on the teaching team with him.

–Bill Donovan, Associate Professor & Director of Freshman Chemistry, University of Akron, June 17, 2020

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