In the spring of 1981, Cressa Payne ’79 wrote to then-President Sherrill Cleland about how Marietta College — particularly the Organic Chemistry class taught by Dr. Hans-Georg Gilde — prepared her for the rigors of medical school at Ohio State University.
“Before I began the class, I was under the false impression that learning was a rather finite process with limited scope,” she wrote. “Upon taking Dr. Gilde’s first test, my head was spinning. I thought the level of knowledge on which he expected us to function was beyond human capabilities. He taught me a lesson, though, which I will never forget: ‘That which human minds create, human minds can understand.’ ”
Marietta College learned this week that Dr. Gilde, an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, passed away on February 24, 2023. He was 89 years old. He was born on July 8, 1933. He is survived by his wife, Helen Schooner Gilde, who he married in 1957, and two daughters, Ellen and Emily.
A native of Ragnit, Germany, Dr. Gilde earned a full academic scholarship to attend Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and continued his education at Ohio University, where the research and teaching fellow earned his doctorate. A few months later, he was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at Marietta for the Fall 1961 semester. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1964 and earned full Professor status in 1970.
Teaching courses in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Advanced Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Qualitative Organic Analysis and Instrumentation, Professor Gilde guided his students through very challenging curricula, so they were prepared for their careers or the next phase in their education. He also served the College by being involved in first-year programs so new students understood the expectations placed on them and the support they had at Marietta.
“My son, Paul, is a sophomore at Marietta and, though always a good student, he now has acquired a drive and resolution that is a joy to behold. Much of this has resulted from the excellent tutelage of his advisor, Dr. Gilde, whom he respects and admires,” the father of a student wrote to President Cleland in April 1975. “…Paul has selected medicine and I outlined to him what would be required of him to get into medical school. Your staff has consistently reinforced those tenets. In fact, after we heard Dr. Gilde’s talk during freshman week, Paul remarked, ‘Gee, Dad, he sounds just like you!’ ”
His distinctive teaching style led to him winning the Edward G. Harness Fellowship and a nomination for the 1973 College Chemistry Teacher Award under a program sponsored by the Manufacturing Chemists Association, Inc. Not only did Professor Gilde mentor his students, he also supported new faculty.
Throughout his career, Professor Gilde conducted research, authored published work, and continued to learn. He taught a summer course for the National Science Foundation-sponsored ISCS Workshop for junior high school teachers. He also applied for and received an NSF grant to study stable carbonium ions using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) techniques at low temperatures. The study included the generation of carbonium ions, and their characterization, which he expected would lead ultimately to a better understanding of carbonium ion reactions.
During one sabbatical, he studied Modern Structural Chemistry, Theoretical Organic Chemistry, Bioorganic Chemistry, and Organic Synthesis at Harvard University, and studied Biochemistry, Human Nutrition, Synthesis, and Physical Biochemistry at MIT.
“For the opportunity of this wonderful sabbatical and for the financial help given me, I would like to thank Marietta College,” Professor Gilde wrote to then-Academic Dean Dr. Jim Murtha. “I hope I have grown in ways that will make me better able to serve our students. With renewed vigor, I shall return to my classes this coming semester. You can count on my staunch support in your effort to improve Marietta College’s academic climate and image.”
When Professor Gilde retired in 1992, current and former students started the Hans Gilde Scholarship Fund to honor him. Income from this endowed fund is awarded as a partial tuition grant to the Chemistry, Biology, or Petroleum Engineering major who is the most deserving Organic Chemistry student and who has demonstrated leadership. The value of the scholarship is approximately $2,000.