In memoriam: Chemistry family we lost


Wayne State mourns the chemistry family we lost, but have not forgotten.

Robert K. Boeckman Jr.

By Carl Johnson

Robert K. Boeckman Jr., former professor of chemistry at Wayne State University and the Marshall D. Gates Emeritus Professor at Wayne State University and the Marshall D. Gates Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester, died on September 5, 2021, from complications of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

Bob was born on August 26, 1944, in Pasadena, California. He received his B.S. from Carnegie Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from Brandeis University before completing postdoctoral studies at Columbia University.

Bob began his academic career as an assistant professor at Wayne State and quickly advanced ranks to full professor. In 1980, he moved to the University of Rochester, where he spent the next four decades.

Bob’s research focused on the development of new synthetic methodology, applicable to the synthesis of complex multifunctional target structures. He served as associate editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, chair of the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry and president of Organic Syntheses Inc.

Upon retirement, Bob and his wife, Mary, moved with their horses and cats to the Adirondacks. Bob was a long-term supporter and recent president of Pet Pride of New York Inc., a no-kill, cats only sanctuary and adoption center.

Bob was exemplary in his service to his department, his university, his profession and society. 

Clayton P. Scott 

By Steve Bowman

Clayton P. Scott was the definition of a hospitable person. Nicknamed “Cadillac” for his style and commitment to excellence, he loved his family, his job and his colleagues. 

Clayton had an impeccable work ethic and keen attention to detail. He cared about everyone in the chemistry department, and it was his pleasure to make sure everything was clean for everyone who worked in or visited the building.

Clayton had many friends throughout the department, especially in his sector. I had the pleasure of working with him for more than 10 years. He was truly an amazing worker, and we will miss him dearly. Clayton, may your God bless you. You will never be forgotten. 

Tenecia Smith

By Jackie Kennedy

Tenecia Smith, office services clerk II, passed away on October 29, 2021, following a long battle with leukemia. From her first day in the department, Tenecia stepped into her role as if she had been in the department for years. Department members looked forward to seeing her infectious smile as they entered the building. She made many lasting impacts during her time in chemistry, especially in the hearts of the graduate students. She always provided a listening ear and was their biggest cheerleader as they celebrated milestones on the path to their Ph.D. Not a day goes by where she is not missed by all in the department.

Diane Klimas

By David M. Coleman and Carl R. Johnson

Long-time chemistry secretary Diane Klimas, 73, died from kidney failure on May 11 in Long Beach, California.

Born in Detroit, Diane lived most of her life in Michigan and enjoyed gardening, cooking for family and friends, and caring for her mother until she passed. She moved to California in 2011, where she lived the rest of her life at home with her son and his family.

Diane worked in the chemistry department for more than 30 years. She typed with remarkable speed
and accuracy, and was quick to learn new technology as computers penetrated the office environment. She provided office support for the organic and analytical divisions, and was administrative assistant to Carl Johnson during his service as associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Diane was a key player in the administration of the Lumigen Instrument Center, supported the International Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies in generating their annual programs, and much more. She developed countless close friendships with her administrative colleagues, professors and graduate students. Following retirement, she exchanged countless letters and greetings with friends, always in impeccable penmanship, and often including photos of her grandchildren.

Diane’s memorial service was held in June in Long Beach. She is survived by her son, Josh (formerly a WSU physics major); his wife, Lisa; and their children, Gabby and Alex.

Lewis Throop

By Lisa Anga

Lewis Throop earned three degrees from the Wayne State Department of Chemistry, culminating with a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry in 1957.

Throop studied under Professor Carl Djerassi and was heavily involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill.

Upon graduating from WSU, Throop moved to Mexico to work with Djerassi at Syntex. He then spent five years with Mead Johnson in Evansville, Indiana, before returning to work at Syntex’s new headquarters in Palo Alto, California. After a 30-year career, Throop retired as Syntex’s director of analytical chemistry and environmental analysis in 1994. His memory lives on through his family’s support of the analytical division. 

Walter “Wally” Pociask Jr. 

By Nawana Lawson

Walter “Wally” Pociask Jr., associate director in the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, passed away on January 19.

Wally was born in Detroit in 1947 and lived in Grosse Ile. He was a proud Cass Tech alumnus and received a bachelor of science in industrial management from Lawrence Technological University.

Wally began his career at Wayne State University in 2001. He started on a temporary assignment, was later hired as hazardous materials manager and then promoted to associate director. His primary responsibility was to legally manage disposal of the university’s hazardous waste. He particularly anticipated Earth Day, when he hosted a community event, collecting more than 3 million pounds of e-waste over the years.

Wally served on several committees and was a stickler for safety. He was also an OSHA trainer and a part- time faculty member, training and certifying students and serving as mentor and dear friend to many.

Wally is survived by his wife, Susan; son, Ken (Scarlette); and three grandchildren, Abigail, Allison and Jacob. He is also survived by his sister, Nancy Matschekowski, and brothers Robert, Gary and Tom. 

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