We've lost a great one. Pelham Wilder, orgo prof for the ages (he taught me and my parents), died yesterday.
A challenging, but quite fair teacher. My favorite lecture was on the metabolism of alcohol - delivered the Monday after spring break. He certainly had our attention! He also told some stories about his time researching airplane fuels for the RAF during WWII.
Condolences to Sterly and the rest of his family.
Last edited by -jk; 10-07-2012 at 09:47 PM. Reason: fixing date
I'm sorry to hear this. I never had him, but always heard good things. My condolences to Sterly and the rest of the Wilder family.
Condolences to Sterly and the family.
He must have died yesterday, Saturday, because I was told of his passing at the tailgates yesterday.
Ozzie, your paradigm of optimism!
Go To Hell carolina, Go To Hell!
9F 9F 9F
I would love to hear the details on the lecture you referenced. It reminded me of a story NC State QB Johnny Evans told at a camp I attended as a child many moons ago. It was a story about a lecture Lou Holtz gave to the NC State team when he coached there. Holtz brings in a jar of liquor, and some type of grub worm. He intends to show them the dangers and perils of drinking alcohol. So Holtz takes the worm and drops him into the jar of liquor, and in a few short minutes the worm dies. Holtz looks up and says "Now men, what does that demonstration tell you about drinking this stuff?" Evans claimed that he replied with "Well Coach, it seems that if we drink enough of it, we won't have to worry about getting worms!"
Duke FB 2013 Coastal Division Football Champions
Not leaving until the game is over.
He was a fine gentleman and a class act. I know his family, friends and students will miss him greatly.
He taught Chemistry in the TIP program, which I took the summer before my sophomore year in HS. Three years later, I was touring Duke with my dad, and he came up to me after his talk for new admits and introduced himself to my father. I had grown and changed quite a bit since...and he recognized me in a crowd of 100 people or so and cared enough to say hello.
I was the only freshman in his Orgo class of 200 or so and it was a wild ride to say the least. He was an unbelievably tough teacher who scared the bajeebers out of the premeds who just needed a good grade for med school. However, he was crazy good at what he did and his only goal was imparting knowledge...period. I called him on this once, when a friend was failing his class and needed the grade to get into grad school. I reasoned that since he was interested ONLY in making sure she learned the material that he could give her WHATEVER grade she got on the final (good or bad) which would demonstrate her proficiency. I tutored her virtually non-stop, and she passed with a B+. He was true to his word and gave her the grade, and she ended up with a doctorate in biology.
Fast forward about 15 years when I had an opportunity to visit campus the first time since graduation. He had just had double knee replacement surgery, and was in Duke Med Center recovering. When I entered his room, he was still sleeping. He cracked and eyelid, said hello, and started talking and asking me questions about my work since I left school. Mind like a steel trap, that one.
I have dreaded this news for some time...they don't make them like him anymore.
My condolences to Sterly and the family.
Scientist, warrior, poet....er...scratch the last one!
May he RIP.
Organic chem in the late 70s was a killer for us premeds. It took me 2 extra years to get into medical school because of that class. But he was an excellent teacher and was certainly fair. I should have put more effort into that class and socialized less. Nah, never mind...still got into medical school.
My favorite story was going to his office for extra help and noting the gas chromatographs on the wall. He had taken all of the top bourbons and did gas chromatography and proved that his Wild Turkey was the best! Priceless.
Pelham Wilder was my grandmother's first cousin, and so I consider him family. When I applied to Duke in 1994, my parents insisted I list him on my application as family even though the connection (first cousin twice removed) was dubious at best. Still, I always thought that it didn't hurt. My wife, a Duke Chemstiry grad, and I were married in 1999, and Pelham came to our wedding. We have a wonderful picture of our entire clan with Dr. Wilder in the middle. He also served as University Emeritus for my graduation (as well as many of you as well).
One of my favorite Pelham stories was the one about his directive in Organic Chemsitry. When discussing compounds he said "EtOH + H2O.... what is it?" After a few moments of silence and random guesses, he said "Vodka!" He then proceeded to instruct the class to never buy expensive vodka, because all vodka was chemcially the same.
A few weeks later one of his students wandered into the local ABC store. When the clerk asked if he could help him with anything, the young man said:
"I'd like the cheapest bottle of vodka you have."
The cashier stared him down for a few moments, then deadpanned:
"You're in Dr. Wilder's organic chemistry class, aren't you."
Thanks for the kind words here. I will pass them along to the family.
"There can BE only one."
I was Dr. Wilder’s graduate student from 1964-70. I became an organic chemist because of his intermediate organic chemistry class in my first semester of graduate school. He got me hooked on the stereochemistry, reactions, and rearrangements of bicyclic molecules. I served as a recitation instructor for one semester of his organic class, and he let us write questions for his quizzes and exams. My exams today still use the format I learned then. He was not a “hands on” advisor, and, consequently, my dissertation research was mainly my own ideas. Of the many memories, I can still see him walking the halls of Gross Chemistry with his bulldog. He is missed.
As to his fairness, I gotta say I have a different perspective, though I never had Dr Wilder for a class.
As a J-frosh anticipating to major in Chemistry I was encouraged by Duke to attend school elsewhere for the fall semester and transfer those credits to Duke. Having gone through the prescribed process to get the courses pre-approved, I arrived at Duke transcript in hand. All that stood between me and the beginning of my Duke career was getting departmental approval for the transfers.
For Chemistry I was directed to see Dr Wilder, who reviewed the same materials that had already been pre-approved. I was stunned when he declined the transfer. When I asked why, I was brusquely turned away by Dr Wilder who told me "I don't have time for this."
I remember Dr. Wilder's unique ability to make organic chemistry seem simple yet elegant. He would write some synthesis reaction on the board and, seeing a few hundred blank stares in the lecture hall, he would say, "Now look, my good people - this is just a mere Markovnikov addition..."
I loved organic chemistry because of Pelham Wilder. He will be missed.
I would also like to remember Ed Bilpuch, a long-time Physics professor who died in the last few weeks. He must have been in his early 70's, white-haired but very energetic, when he was demonstrating momentum to our intro physics class. He jumped on a skateboard at the back of the lecture hall in Math/Physics and managed to jump off the skateboard the instant before he would have crashed into the front wall. The whole class erupted in applause.
Dr. Wilder could indeed be brusque, his main concern was ALWAYS learning and the welfare of the students. If he felt that you were inadequately prepared because of grades, institution, etc., I have no trouble envisioning him giving a firm no. Your problem may have been that what you WANTED and what he thought you NEEDED were two different things. If you were anything short of respectful (defined by HIS era of professionalism, not yours), I can see him dismissing you abruptly as you describe.
I do not think you will find much support for your view of the man here or elsewhere.
Scientist, warrior, poet....er...scratch the last one!