Dr. Charles Estee

Dr. Charles Estee

 Charles Remington Estee, age 90, died Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012.  Born at Hecla, Oct. 7, 1921, he graduated cum laude from Jamestown College in 1942.  He then went to the University of Iowa, where he was a Dupont Fellow 1945-46 and received his M.S. (1944) and Ph.D. (1947) in physical chemistry.  During WWII he worked at Oak Ridge, TN, on the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.

He came to the Chemistry Department at the University of South Dakota on Sept. 1, 1947, where he taught general, physical and environmental chemistry and the department capstone course, Chemical Literature.  He served as department chair from 1952 to 1984, during which time he helped the department to establish a Ph.D. program in chemistry, which graduated 15 students before the program ended. He felt extremely honored when the College of Arts and Sciences selected him as Harrington Lecturer in 1969. 

He was interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences 1987-1988.  After his retirement, the university honored him with the title of University Distinguished Professor Emeritus and the Board of Regents with the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 1991.  He then became chemical and hazardous waste control officer until his second retirement in 1997 when the Board of Regents honored him with a special resolution for 50 years of dedicated and outstanding service to the South Dakota system of higher education. 

His service to the university and the higher education system included, inter alia, chairing the College Science Division twice; membership in the College's Advisory Committee (1977-83); six terms as chairperson of the University Senate; trustee (1983-85) and chair (1983-84, 1985-86) of the Bush Foundation Grant for Faculty Development; and Conference of Senates (1973-83; vice-director 1982-83, director 1974-75).

In addition to publishing 18 chemical articles, he was assistant program director (1961-62) for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington DC and was a member of the executive committee for the National Science Teachers Association Board of Directors (1970-72) and president of the Society for College Science Teachers 1982-83. 

In addition to directing numerous undergraduate chemistry research projects and in-service programs, he was successful in obtaining many comprehensive grants for teacher education (NSF) for annual summer institutes for high school science teachers, which he directed (1957-72).  During this time he made many visits to high school science programs around the state; it is not too much to say that he was instrumental in helping to improve science teaching.  He was named Fellow of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Iowa Academy of Science, and Science Faculty Fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota.

Alumni, colleagues, and friends raised two endowments in his honor.  The Chas. R. Estee Lectureship in Science Education brings to USD each year an outstanding undergraduate teacher of chemistry and related sciences.  The Chas. R. Estee Presidential Alumni Chemistry Scholarship is a four-year renewable scholarship for a student majoring in Chemistry.

A man of great humanitarian spirit, his public service included Scottish Rite Incense Lodge #2, Vermillion (33d degree; Lodge Master and Lodge Secretary), and District Master of District Number One (A.F. and A.M) which he joined in 1950.  In addition he was a member of El Riad Shrine, Sioux Falls; Vermillion Retired Teachers; and USD Emeritus Club.  For his service in the Vermillion Lions Club (61 years since joining in 1951), serving as president 1973-74 and secretary 1992-2000, the Lions Club International Foundation named him Melvin Jones Fellow for dedicated humanitarian service in 1999.  He served many years as treasurer for the Friends of the W. H. Over Museum and as member of various committees at the Vermillion United Methodist Church.  He was particularly touched when the city of Vermillion proclaimed Jan. 6, 2011, "Dr. Charles R. Estee Day."

A master vegetable gardener, he started many of his plants from seed and shared his produce with friends and the Vermillion Food Pantry.  He was particularly known for the hundreds of gladioli he grew each year.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Judith.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Doris; and is survived by their son, Charles (Cindy), and daughters, Barbara Remington and Elizabeth Estee.  Other survivors include his granddaughters, Stephanie and Rebecca, grandson, Charles "Cal" (Ellen), and one sister, Eleonore Osher.

His funeral was held at 10 a.m. Tuesday Aug. 21 at the First United Methodist Church, Vermillion, with committal in BluffView Cemetery, Vermillion. Kober Funeral Home, Vermillion, is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to USD Foundation for the Dr. Chas. R. Estee Fund Endowment for the Estee Lecture series on science education or for the Chas. R. Estee Presidential Alumni Chemistry Scholarship; or to the USD Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders for the USD Scottish Rite Speech, Language, and Hearing Center.

Condolences may be posted online to www.koberfuneralhome.com.

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