Love for Colorado led former science dean to DU

John Kice knew how to balance his passions.

The professor and dean emeritus of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering had remarkable self-discipline, says chemistry professor Andrei Kutateladze. “Normally deans do not have time for active research, but John was running a productive research group, having weekly meetings and discussing current programs with his students.”

Kice died Oct. 31 after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 15 at Evans Chapel on the DU campus.

“He was somewhat of your stereotypical scientist — absent minded, a bit clumsy, but always intellectually sharp and inspiring,” Kutateladze says.

Kice’s contributions to mechanistic organic chemistry — and to organosulfur chemistry in particular — are “highly appreciated by the scientific community,” Kutateladze says. Kice wrote 140 refereed publications and one textbook during his career. But Kice didn’t let his research take him away from his students, who colleagues say he always put first.

“Teaching is often a convenient excuse for people who don’t want to do research or, conversely, research becomes an excuse for people who don’t want to teach, particularly the undergraduates,” Kice said in an interview in late 1985. “Anybody who wants to can do both and do both well.”

John Kice was born in Colorado Springs on Feb. 18, 1930. At age 15, entered Harvard, where he received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in addition to his PhD.

Before joining DU, Kice taught at Texas Tech University, the University of Vermont, Oregon State University and the University of South Carolina.

His love of Colorado brought Kice to DU in 1985. At the time, DU was on shaky financial ground. Kice would recall how several colleagues advised him not to let his love for the location supercede his best judgment.

“It turned out to be a very smart decision,” Kice said upon retirement in 1995, noting that during his time at the University he watched DU become one of the premier institutions in the country.

He was chair of the chemistry department until his appointment as dean of the division in 1988.

For years, Kice worked to obtain funding for the construction of Olin Hall, the science building that was completed one year after he left DU.

Kice spent his spare time hiking with his wife of 55 years, Ellen. He also was an avid baseball fan, Kutateladze says, playing softball and ushering at Colorado Rockies games after retirement.

In addition to his wife, Kice is survived by two daughters —Virginia and Joanne — and two grandchildren.

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