Paul Scheuer, chemistry professor, dead at 87
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Paul Scheuer, a longtime University of Hawai'i professor who pioneered a new branch of marine chemistry, died Sunday. He was 87.
Paul Scheuer, a Jew, fled from his native Germany during Hitler's rise to power and headed for the United States.
Scheuer was the first chemist to chronicle the compounds produced by sea life. He studied the molecular chemistry of coral reef organisms, and isolated and tested compounds for their potential use by the pharmaceutical industry.
"He is the person who should be credited with putting this department on the map," said Roger Cramer, a chemistry professor and former chairman of the department.
Although Scheuer's research work was unparalleled at the university, possibly his greatest contribution was his influence on generations of chemistry students who went on to establish careers of their own.
One of his students was Joyce Tsunoda, longtime chancellor of the university's community colleges and now vice president of international education. Tsunoda was a 19-year-old sophomore at the university in 1957, and like many women of Asian ancestry at that time, she was headed for a career in teaching or nursing.
But after taking one of Scheuer's courses, she had a life-changing experience.
"I happened to enroll in Paul Scheuer's introduction to organic chemistry, and it was so fascinating that I changed my major," Tsunoda said. "I ran away from the College of Education and went into majoring in chemistry and went on to get my doctorate."
Tsunoda said Scheuer helped her get a scholarship and provided her with encouragement and support throughout her career. He also became a great friend, she said.
"There are good researchers and there are good teachers, but it's not very frequent you find a person who excels in both. And that's what Dr. Scheuer was," Tsunoda said.
Scheuer officially retired in 1985, but he continued to work in his Manoa campus office until late last year. Jonathan Scheuer said his father published more than 100 scientific papers after he retired.
Scheuer was born on May 25, 1915, in Heilbronn, Germany. A Jew, he fled from his native country during Hitler's rise to power and headed for the United States.
He started as a tannery apprentice and sorted and packed calf and sheep leather. He began his chemistry career when he took night classes to understand the process that changed cowhide into leather.
Scheuer earned his undergraduate degree at Northeastern University and did his graduate work in organic chemistry at Harvard.
In addition to his son Jonathan, Scheuer is survived by his wife, Alice; daughters, Elizabeth Carlson and Deborah; another son, David; grandson, Joshua; and sister, Ruth Rosenstack.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at St. Andrew's Cathedral.