Department News

In Memory of Chemistry Professor Emeritus William Saunders

June 21, 2019

William SaundersThe Chemistry Department mourns the loss of Emeritus Professor William “Bill” H. Saunders, Jr. who passed away in Rochester, NY on Monday, June 17, 2019, at the age of 93.

Bill was born in Pulaski, Virginia and graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in chemistry after serving two years in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. When he returned to the U.S. Bill went on to graduate studies in chemistry at Northwestern followed by a move to MIT for postdoctoral work. After completing his postdoctoral studies, Bill was hired by Albert Noyes and joined the University of Rochester Chemistry Department in 1953. Bill served as department chair from 1966 to 1970 and recruited Tom Krugh, Andy Kende, and Keiji Morokuma to the Department.

Bill's first paper from Rochester used sulfur isotope effects to probe the transition state structure in the elimination of b‑phenethyl sulfonium salts.  This work exemplifies two continuing themes that occupied Bill for much of his career in chemistry:  kinetic isotope effects and elimination reactions. 

In 1991, Bill transitioned to the status of Senior Faculty Associate, which meant practically that he retired from teaching and experimental research. However, Bill begin a new career as an expert computational chemist interested in valence bond calculations. Bill published his first paper in 1953 and his latest contribution to the literature was in 2015- a remarkable time span of 62 years! 

Even well into his 90s Bill enjoyed life to its fullest, enjoying reading, cycling, theater and classical music. He will be missed by all those who knew him over his many decades in the Department.


Prof. Saunders with his son and daughter
Bill with his daughter Anne and son Claude at his 90th birthday celebration