Obituary: Joseph Kurz, professor emeritus of chemistry, 85


Joseph Kurz, professor emeritus of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, died Jan. 2, 2019, at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis County. His health had declined over the past several years. Kurz was 85.

Kurz, who taught chemistry courses in Arts & Sciences from 1963 to 1994, earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees, both in chemistry, at Washington University in 1955 and 1958, respectively. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and three years working as a research chemist with a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, he returned to the university as a visiting professor in 1963. He became assistant professor the next year, associate professor in 1967, and a full professor in 1973.

Kurz primarily taught general chemistry and organic chemistry, and occasionally quantitative chemistry. He was passionate about classroom teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in his physical organic chemistry laboratory, where his research focused on the role of solvents in transition-state stabilization and activation.

Kurz became professor emeritus in 1994. Outside of work, he enjoyed canoeing and training dogs. After he retired, he participated in several arctic excursions, including icebreaker journeys along the Northwest and Northeast Passages.

Kurz is survived by his wife, Linda, a retired research professor in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine, who also earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University. She lives in rural Franklin County, Mo.

At his request, there was no funeral service. Kurz donated his body to the School of Medicine.

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