Gilbert Pierce Haight

Gilbert Pierce Haight

Dr. Gilbert P. Haight Jr., best known for his pioneering work in chemical education, died on Monday, April 17, 2015 of natural causes.

Known to family and friends as "Gil", Dr. Haight spent his professional life as a professor of chemistry, exploring and perfecting the delivery of scientific education to college students in a career that spanned the globe.

Born in Seattle on June 8, 1922, Haight spent his early years on Bainbridge Island. Gil graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1939, attended Stanford University as an undergraduate then Princeton University where he received his PhD in chemistry in 1946. Haight worked on the Manhattan Project during the war as part of his PhD research. His avowed interest in chemistry originated in order to avoid becoming a teacher, which he ironically dedicated his life to after discovering a knack for tutoring his fellow college students.

Following his marriage to Shirley Grapek Haight of Boston, Massachusetts in 1946, Haight became a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, England where their first child, Jennifer Lea, was born. His subsequent teaching positions in chemistry took the growing family to the University of Hawaii, Kansas University, George Washington University, Swarthmore College, Texas A&M and finally to the University of Illinois where Haight taught from 1966 to his retirement in 1989. He did continuing research during sabbaticals in Copenhagen, Denmark; San Diego, California; Canberra, Australia; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Always dedicated to teaching chemistry to freshman students, Haight ultimately pioneered the blending of multimedia and television into the lectures and labs. He also mixed humor and explosive demonstrations as part of his famous Christmas lectures where he revealed what life would be like a few billion years from now after the sun had exploded and temperatures plummeted to minus 465° Fahrenheit. In 1989 he won the American Chemical Society Science Award for his innovative efforts in teaching He authored a number of chemistry text books used widely throughout the United Sates and world.

Haight is survived by his brother Warren Haight of Hawaii, his sister Mary Pease of Seattle, his wife Shirley and their children: Jennifer Haight of Kauai, Hawaii, Loisanne "Sandy" Haight of Seattle, Washington, Charles "Chad" Haight of Bainbridge Island. Washington and Stephanie Haight-Kuntze of Berlin, Germany, 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Haight was both serious scientist and a very funny man, mixing humor into his teachings and daily life. A master of puns, he was happiest when eliciting an extended groan from those in his company. When he wasn't teaching, he could most often be found on the tennis court where his unorthodox game drove his opponents crazy.