University of Rochester

$1 Million Gift Honors Legendary Professor of Rochester Chemistry

September 10, 2004

A chemistry alumnus has donated $1 million to the Marshall D. Gates, Jr. Chair of Chemistry at the University of Rochester. John L. Zabriskie, a graduate of the Department of Chemistry, along with his wife, Adelaide Zabriskie, gave the gift in remembrance of his one-time friend and mentor.

“We are very proud to be able to honor Marshall with this chair, and John’s gift is a tremendous way to show both his respect and the University’s respect for Marshall’s work and life,” says Charles E. Phelps, provost of the University.

The Gates chair was established in 2002 to honor Marshall D. Gates, Jr., professor emeritus and C. F. Houghton Professor of Chemistry, who died on Oct. 1 last year at the age of 88, just nine days before the dedication ceremony of the chair named for him. Gates was known worldwide for his groundbreaking synthesis of morphine. His pursuit of the chemistry of the morphanoids was a lifelong effort and was rewarded by many honors including election to the National Academy of Sciences. Marshall was also a distinguished teacher and mentor, recognized by the University with the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He gave generously of his time to his students and the scientific community, serving as assistant editor, then editor in chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society from 1949-1969. He also served as a member of the Committee on Problems of Drug Dependence of the National Research Council and on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science.

“Marshall was a genuinely warm person with a zest for life,” says Robert Boeckman, Jr. chair of the Department of Chemistry and current holder of the Gates chair. “He treasured life for all it had to offer him; not only the intellectual pursuit of scientific inquiry, but also in his myriad other interests, skills such as glassblower, sailor, woodworker, and athlete.”

“I decided to give the gift as a way to honor a great chemist, a great mentor, and a close friend—someone whom I admired ever since we first met,” says Zabriskie. “We shared many of the same interests, including a love of chemistry, a love of skiing, and an occasional game of poker together. I also am mindful that the University through its doctoral program in chemistry provided me with an opportunity to grow intellectually, and which, in turn, provided the foundation for my successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Zabriskie received his doctorate in chemistry from the University in 1966 with Gates as his doctoral thesis advisor. He is currently a co-founder of PureTech, an Internet technology company, and is the organizing chairman of Protein Forest and sits on the boards of Cellicon Biotechnologies and Nanopharma. He was president and CEO of Pharmacia and Upjohn, Inc. Prior to joining Upjohn in 1994, Zabriskie was executive vice president of Merck and Co., Inc. He was a member of the US Healthcare Leadership Council, and has served on a number of boards for healthcare and academic institutions.

“It is amazing how an individual can touch one’s life and alter it forever,” says Zabriskie. “Marshall had this impact on many of his students and associates, including me. I attribute my success in part to the influence that he played in my life as a teacher, mentor, and friend, and remember the time that I spent as a doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry with great affection.”