In Memory

Merle Pattengill

Merle Pattengill

Merle D. Pattengill, a chemistry professor at the University of Kentucky, died of cancer May 24,1989, at his home at 3165 Hyde Park Dr. He was 46.

Pattengill had been a UK faculty member since 1973 and was a former project associate at the University of Wisconsin, a former lecturer at the University of Toronto and a former visiting professor at Stanford University

He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1985 to conduct research on reaction dynamics at Stanford.

From 1986 to 1987 Pattengill worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, on a braking system that possibly could be used in spacecraft.

Pattengill, a native of McPherson, Kansas, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas in 1964 and a doctorate from the University of California at Irvine in 1969. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Lambda Upsilon and received several other fellowships and scholarships.

He was a member of the American Chemical Society

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Lane Pattengill a daughter Mary Pattengill of Lexington and his mother, Esther Hawkinson Pattengill of Manhattan, Ks; one sister and two brothers.

Private services will be May 27 at Ball & Son Funeral Home in McPherson, Ks. There will be no visitation.

The family requests no flowers be sent. Contributions are suggested to Hospice of the Bluegrass, Community Kitchen, or Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.

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10/27/09 07:46 PM #1    

William Keith Swinehart

Linda and I went to an October 2009 McPherson Museum sponsored cemetary historical walk. When the walk concluded, on the way to the car I found myself standing in front of Merle Pattengill's gravestone. Merle, born August 19, 1942, died on May 24, 1989. Enscription on the stone is "Beloved Husband of Elizabeth." I have a digital photo of the headstone if it would be of any interest.

On searching the Internet I found quite a few interesting notes attached to Merle.

Google replies to the following search criteria, "merle d. pattengill", kansas yielded the following.
1-His name is listed in the Wichita, Kansas index to 1989 Obituaries.
2-He is the author of several chemistry papers: Reactions of Thorium Carbides... published July 1965; Trajectory Studies of Hot-Atom Reactions... published October 1970 University of California, Irvine, and, the last publication in Feb. 1989 (three months before his death) on "Classical trajectory studies of gas phase reaction dynamics and kinetics using ab initio potential energy surfaces," authors: Richard L Jaffe, Merle D. Pattengill, David W. Schwenke.
3-Merle D Pattengill name appears in connection with (I assume a recipient) the "John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship Award for Chemistry."
4-He obtained a Ph.D. in 1969 from University of California, Irvine

Interesting stuff on Merle. Does anybody know more about him? Did anyone know his wife, Elizabeth?

Keith Swinehart

10/29/09 02:10 PM #2    

Marlene Johnson (Kennedy)

I have also received the following from Merle's wife:

Memorial Resolution on the death of Professor Merle D. Pattengill read at the University of Kentucky Senate meeting on February 10,1991:

Merle Dean Pattengill, a faculty member in the Physical Chemistry Division, died on May 24,1989. Merle fought his illness for more than a year with humor and determination, and lived longer and better than his doctors believed possible.
Merle was born in 1942 in McPherson, KS a small city 50 miles north of Wichita. After earning a B.S. at the University of Kansas in 1964 he went on to the University of California at Irvine, where his Ph.D. thesis concerned the theory of gas-phase reactions. Two postdoctoral appointments followed: the first with R.B.Bernstein at the University of Wisconsin and the second with J.C.Polanyi at the University of Toronto. Merle joined the Chemistry Dept at the University of Kentucky in 1973 and rose throught the ranks to become Professor in 1987.
Merle was awarded a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1985 that allowed him to spend a sabbatical year at Stanford University working with R.N.Zare. The active collaboration that developed with Zare and scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center continued until Merle's death. Their work on aerobraking was described on the science page of the Louisville Courier Journal in July of 1986.
Merle published about 35 papers, mostly in the field of reaction dynamics. He could be passionate about science, and was particularly skeptical about the theory that discusses activated complexes. His approach was painstaking and thorough and his writing clear and concise.
Despite his success in research, Merle's first commitment was to teaching, especially at the freshman level. He reviewed textbooks and worried about pedagogical matters. He never went into class unprepared and always left his door open. He delighted in meeting former students who had gone on to graduate or professional school.
Around the department Merle was known for his wit. He always had a funny story, an atrocious pun, or a pungent observation to share. He loved politics, probably because it provided him with so many amusing anecdotes. Merle's childhood among the Kansas wheat fields had left him wary of fancy talk, and he did his best to combat overblown rhetoric and all other forms of pomposity. Humor was his best weapon.
Merle is survived by his wife, Liz and daughter, Mary. His many friends in the Chemistry Dept wish that he could have stayed with us longer

10/30/09 08:49 PM #3    

Frank Logbeck

Merle and I are related in a way.

His brother Wallace "Wally" Pattengill is married to my sister Sally.

Merle, taught me how to play chess. We played from, as I remember from the eighth grade through high school.

We then went on our seperate ways.

He was very intelligent and I wished I had let him teach me more as he helped me through high school.

My wife, Marilyn, and I have put flowers on his grave, his parents and his grandparents, at McPherson for many years. As our family has walways remembered family and friends.


11/05/09 08:03 PM #4    

Henry Gier

As far as I can remember or at least from Junior High thru High School we all knew or I thought we all knew how smart "Mouse" was, but it never seemed to matter he was just "mouse" to us. He had a funny and sort of ascerbic sense of humor, but was never caustic or nasty. Now that I think about it, I knew Mouse before Junior High as we both won a trip to St Louis for collecting IGA Grocery labels when we were ten. We had a fun time going to the St Louis Zoo, staying at the Muhlbach Hotel, and taking a cruise on a paddle wheeler on the Mississippi. Also we went to see the New York Yankees play the St Louis Browns in a double header. It was 1952 and Mickey Mantle had just come up to play for the Yanks in 1951. In the second game we even got to see Satchel Paige pitch in relief.
When we were seniors in high school there were five of us who palled around together going to ballgames and whatnot, J Reed Pierce, Warren Harden, Dennis Perera, myself and Mouse. It seems we were always with J Reed as he had a car. And in college at KU, Merle & I double dated once that I remember. I do remember his date was really cute. She must have been because I remember her and don't remember my date at all. I doubt he had any more dates with her as he told me later all she wanted to talk about was ice skating. After that year at KU, I went back to McPherson College and totally lost track of Mouse, but that was the way it was when we were young.

12/02/09 06:17 PM #5    

William Keith Swinehart

As I was looking through pages of the 1960 MHS Yearbook the other day I recalled that Merle and I were Co-Editors of the yearbook. I never quite figured out how that came about. But the school was fortunate to have Merle on the job. He did the work! I was pretty useless, frankly. Happily, "Mouse" and others carried the ball and came out with a great yearbook, despite my best efforts to sabotage the deal. Later, after seeing Merle's great accomplishments in his brief lifetime I can now see how he managed so easily.

07/29/10 07:00 PM #6    

Warren Harden

Merle, Bill Kelly and I started running around together in the 7th-8th grades. In evenings during freshman and sophmore years in high school, we met regularly on school nights in Bill's basement and learned more Latin, algebra and geometry than we did in class, particularly Latin. Our time in the classroom with Miss Johnston was always frought with not just self-imposed terror. Her poor hearing and eyesight added extra dimensions to the learning environment. Algebra with Carl Harris was challenging for us and Janice Rankin who took the advanced tests with us. All three were better than I. Plane Geometry with Harry Heckethorn was fun, especially the extra credit problems, some of which I remember to this day.  In spite of what I believed at the time, I can say that in all my years of public school in McPherson I never had a teacher that did not care about me in some way. Some cared a lot. For those teachers and those close friends I had like Merle and Bill and all the others before and since I am deeply grateful. I wish they were still with us, for they were and are and always will be valuable people.

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