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PSU saddened by death of retired chemistry professor

PSU lost another longtime faculty member with the passing of Robert Roy Pavlis, who died Nov. 30, 2017, unexpectedly in Pelham, Alabama. 

Pavlis, a resident of Girard, Kansas, was 76. 

"Dr. Pavlis was an academic in the truest sense of the word,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “His efforts brought chemistry to life for our students. On behalf of Pittsburg State University, I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends.” 

A native of South Dakota, Pavlis grew up attending a small country school, finishing as valedictorian of his class. He went on to graduate from Purdue University with a degree in chemistry, followed by a PhD in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University. 

He joined the faculty of the College of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas in 1969. While there, he worked with undergraduates on organic chemistry research and collaborated with colleagues in biological sciences on unusual compounds found in some tropical marine organisms.  

In 1986, he moved to Kansas, joining the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at PSU. 

In addition to his specialty in organic chemistry, he taught physical chemistry, biochemistry, and polymer chemistry, as well as physics, astronomy, and general physical science. He was an accomplished computer programmer and worked extensively on ways to improve software for analysis of molecular structure. Many students maintained personal connections with him long after completion of their degrees. He retired in 2007, assuming the title of professor emeritus. 

He had a long fascination with a range of scientific instrumentation, including microscopes, which he rebuilt. He enjoyed photography his entire life, and was working on a camera system for microscopes in Alabama at the time of his death.  

Pavlis also was an avid bicyclist, known for laps around Girard every morning, which his tallies showed equated to circling the globe more than once. 

A memorial service for Pavlis will be held at 3 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2018, in McCray Hall on the campus of PSU. Following the servicethere will be a reception in the lobby of Heckert-Wells Hall, the sciences building.  

Memorial contributions can be made to the PSU Foundation in memory of Robert Pavlis to start the Robert Pavlis Memorial Scholarship.

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