Obituary for Professor Carl Gryte

Carl Campbell Gryte, 67, professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering died at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey on Friday, December 31, 2010, following a long battle with Parkinson's disease.  He was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 2, 1943.

Professor Gryte received his BASc in 1964 and MASc in 1966, in chemical engineering, from the University of Toronto.  He received his PhD from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn under Professor Harry P. Gregor in 1970, and did post-doctoral studies at the University of Louvain in Belgium from 1969 until 1971 under Professor G. Smets.  His subsequent professional career was entirely at Columbia University where he was assistant professor (1972-1978), associate professor (1978-1980) and full professor from 1980 until the time of his elevation to emeritus status in 2008. He was an internationally renowned expert in polymer science, particularly the formulation of polymers into gels, sorbents, and membranes.  He published on many subjects in this area and appeared frequently as an expert witness in complex litigations involving the manufacture of these materials as well as their roles in major accidents.   He published more than 55 papers, almost all with co-authors from among his many graduate students, and was working on some 15 additional papers at the time of his death.   He supervised 24 doctoral students many of whom have risen to high positions in industry, academia, and government.  Professor Gryte was an active advocate for polymer science in the public good and he gave, with engaging enthusiasm, innumerable public lectures on the subject.

Professor Gryte was an extraordinary teacher and a passionate advocate for his students.  He was a positivist who never failed to see merit and a path for advancement in a student.  He taught incessantly:  in classrooms, laboratories, his office, in corridors, in his home.  He saw beyond language difficulties, learning problems, and personal misfortunes in his students who continued after graduation to seek his advice and approval from positions of importance throughout the world.  In 2006, as his disease made his retirement imminent, he deflected all efforts to honor him toward the creation of a fund to support needy and deserving graduate students and to award seniors showing the greatest promise for service to Chemical Engineering.  A groundswell of response from his former students created this fund which exists and continues to grow.

Professor Gryte is survived by his wife of 43 years, Carol Ann (née Cronsberry), four children, Mark Alexander, Anne-Marie, Carl Andrew, and Christina Ruth, and two brothers, Daniel and Stephen.  He would have it said that he is also survived by more than 1000 students for whom he had extraordinary concern and with whom he maintained contact during his active life and in retirement.  His last doctoral student was joyfully shepherded by him through his final doctoral examination early in December, 2010.

A tribute to Professor Gryte will be held at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University in the next few months.  The family and the Chemical Engineering Department are coordinating with the University.  The details have not yet been finalized. 

Donation checks may be made out to "Columbia University".  Please write in the memo portion of the check "The Carl C. Gryte Fund".  Please send to the Department of Chemical Engineering Attn: Teresa Colaizzo, 500 West 120th Street, rm. 801 S.W. Mudd Bldg, New York, NY.

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