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Father of UF Chemistry Dies at Age 89: Memorial Service Set for January 30

Former UF leader Harry Hall Sisler died over winter break. Sisler served in many leadership roles during his 29-year career with the university, including chair of the Department of Chemistry, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, dean of the Graduate School and executive vice president of the university under President Stephen C. O’Connell.

Harry Hall Sisler
Harry Hall Sisler

Despite all his experience in university administration, however, Sisler never lost sight of what mattered most—the students. Before he agreed to come to UF in 1956 as chair of the Department of Chemistry, he informed President J. Wayne Reitz he would have to be allowed to continue teaching at least one class each year. When Reitz tried to convey how difficult balancing administration and teaching can be, Sisler told the university president he should be doing the same.

“I think it is essential for administrators to have that kind of contact with students,” Sisler told the alumni publication of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Alumni CLASnotes, in 2003. “The most important aspect of the university is the student body, from the undergraduate to graduate level, and what all administrators should understand is their job at the top is to allow the students and faculty to be able to perform their functions.”

Sisler retired in 1985 but continued to be an active part of the UF chemistry community until his death on December 23 at age 89. He is survived by wife Hannelore Wass, a retired UF educational psychologist.

"Harry Sisler was widely regarded as the 'father' of the modern UF Department of Chemistry,” said chemistry professor and former chair David Richardson. “He was responsible for setting high department expectations, which influenced the hiring of new faculty from the late 1950's through the present.  Much of our current success as a department in research and teaching can be traced to the standards he set 50 years ago."

A public memorial service celebrating the life of Harry Sisler will be held Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, located at 4000 N.W. 53rd Ave.

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Buffy Lockette

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