St. Olaf College | News

Larry ’67 and Pam Satek: Fueling a passion for research

Larry '67 and Pam Satek in their family winery.
Larry ’67 and Pam Satek in their family winery.

Faculty-mentored research engages Oles in discovering their potential as researchers, investigators, and scholars. Through For the Hill and Beyond, Oles are building funds to support this high-impact practice.

Larry Satek ’67 loves doing research. It was a passion he didn’t discover until he participated in a St. Olaf summer lab as an undergraduate student.

“Half a dozen of us worked on the sixth floor of Holland Hall. There, Professor of Chemistry Don Tarr was very patient in helping me understand that in research the only right answer is the one that you develop. You figure out the rules that solve the puzzle, which is really exciting.”

It’s an insight that Satek believes is important to discover early in life and one that is hard to gain in any other way. It’s also why he established the John and Molly Grace Hartfield and Anja Satek Memorial Endowment to support summer research experiences for chemistry majors who want to pursue research and/or a teaching career.

“I made up my mind at that time, that if I ever had the opportunity, I wanted to give someone else the same chance,” he says.

Following graduation, Larry earned his Ph.D. and then taught, helping students gain the skills needed for research. He then launched a 20-year career as a catalyst chemist in the petrochemical industry, compiling 50 patents and numerous publications. Collaboration was hugely important, from material science through marketing, to make a project work. At one point Satek coordinated 20 to 25 research programs at various universities.

“Whenever faculty heard I was an Ole, they would quickly share that St. Olaf had a strong reputation for preparing students for research.”

Now Larry and his family run Satek Winery in Fremont, Indiana, a “retirement” project that produces 20,000 gallons of wine annually. “There is a huge amount of hard science and art involved in winemaking. It was fun to put it together.”