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Obituaries » Edwin B. Kurtz, PHD

Edwin B. Kurtz, PHD

August 11, 1926 - July 7, 2018


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Edwin B. Kurtz Jr., age 91, died peacefully on July 7, 2018. He was born Aug.11, 1926 in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in Iowa City, Iowa. His parents were Edwin B. Kurtz, Sr, and Florence (Warner) Kurtz. He had 3 sisters, Jeanne Seydel, who still resides in Denver, Mary Ann Winders of Hudson, Ohio, and Marge Martin of Tarrytown, NY both of whom have passed away. He was married for 32 years from 1952 to his best friend and loving wife, Lois Loretta Leecing, who died in 1984. They had two daughters, Kathryn Ann Kurtz Wilcox of Grants Pass, OR, and Jane Susanne Kurtz of Graton, CA. He is also survived by his son in law, Hughes Wilcox, and daughter in law, Randi Francis, and many nephews and nieces and their families.

Professor Kurtz graduated from high school in Iowa City, Iowa in 1944, and earned his Bachelor of Science in Botany in 1948 from the University of Arizona, Tucson, graduating with honors. He received his Masters of Science with a major in Botany and minor in Chemistry in 1949. He earned a PhD in Plant Physiology and a minor in Bio-Organic Chemistry in 1952 from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

He was professor of Biological Sciences (Botany and Plant Physiology) at the University of Arizona, Tuscon (1951-1968). From 1963-1967 he was on leave from the University of AZ, and was Assistant Director of Education for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, where he was a writer for summer writing conferences for elementary science.

He was Professor and Chairman of Biology at Kansas State Teachers College (1968-1972; now Emporia State University). He was Professor and Chairman of Life Sciences and Chemistry Faculty (1972-1989) at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB), Odessa. He retired from the University in 1989 as Professor Emeritus, and moved to Flagstaff, AZ. He published 120 research articles, books, and teaching manuals.

He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa; Phi Kappa Phi; Phi Lambda Upsilon (chemistry honorary); Fellow, Sigma Xi; Fellow, Arizona Academy of Science; Fellow AAAS, and other honoraries. He had an SC Johnson Wax Fellowship for his MS degree. He had a National Research Council/Atomic Energy Commission Predoctoral Fellowship for his PhD work. At the University of Permian Basin in 1981 he received the AMOCO Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award. He received the UTPB Presidents Award for Distinction in Teaching in 1986. He was also awarded Professor Emeritus by the UT System Board of Regents in 1989. Ed was presented an Alumni Association Centennial Achievement Award from the University of Arizona in 1998.

In retirement, he learned Russian at Northern Arizona University (NAU), and traveled to Russia a few times, and other countries. He had a passion for classical music and opera, and at age 64 he learned to play the cello at NAU. He played in a quartet in Flagstaff for 17 years. He joined the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and served on the Board of Trustees, from 1990-1994. Ed was President of the Board of Planned Parenthood in Odessa/Midland Texas affiliate from 1982-1983, and later served on the Board of Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern AZ from 1991-1994. He was a volunteer Judge at Flagstaff High School Forensic and Debate team for several years, beginning in 1992. Ed moved to Graton, CA in 2015 to reside with his daughter, Jane Kurtz and her partner, Randi Francis.

Ed Kurtz served as a volunteer on several committees in Flagstaff, including Citizens Budget Committee for Flagstaff Unified School District, Coconino County Board of Health, and Coconino County Foster Care Review Board. He was most proud of serving for 50 years on the editorial board for Ranger Rick Nature Magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation, and was instrumental in initiating that publication in 1967. He enjoyed making music with his friends, hiking, NAU sports and music programs, and reading about the world of science.

A Celebration of Life will be held on September 23, 2018, 2 pm, at the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 510 North Leroux St, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001. Contributions in his name may be made to the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Flagstaff. If you wish to contact Jane Kurtz, Ed’s daughter, she can be reached at