St. Olaf College | News

Longtime chemistry professor Wes Pearson dies

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ’54Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ’54, who guided thousands of Oles through St. Olaf College’s chemistry and pre-health programs during the 57 years he taught on the Hill, died on Friday, November 3.

A visitation will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 12. A funeral service will be held at St. John’s at 2 p.m. on Monday, November 13.

Pearson taught chemistry at St. Olaf from 1958, when he accepted a one-year offer to fill a sabbatical vacancy, until 2015, when he retired.

In addition to teaching chemistry and providing mentored undergraduate research opportunities for students, Pearson made pre-health vocational training a strong priority at St. Olaf. He founded the Health Professions Committee, which became a model for colleges around the country, and he was recognized with the Minnesota Health Care Career Award in 2012. He also devised and launched The Physician in Clinical and Hospital Health Care, an interim shadowing and vocation program presented in partnership with Fairview Health Services.

For his contributions to chemistry at St. Olaf, the Pearson Endowed Fund for Pre-Health and Chemistry was established in May 2017. Hundreds of alumni and friends gathered to recognize Pearson and the impact of his efforts this spring.

“Wes was the best teacher I ever had throughout my education,” chemistry major Dan Syrdal ’68 said. “He was also the most important person to my professional development — all the way through my Ph.D. in organic chemistry, my J.D., and my legal career in environmental law and biotechnology development.”

In addition to his work in chemistry and pre-health vocational training, Pearson was also devoted to St. Olaf athletics. From 1984 until 2008, he served as St. Olaf’s faculty athletic representative to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and in 2009 he received the MIAC Distinguished Service Award. From 1967 until 2012, he was the official timekeeper at St. Olaf football and basketball games, a service to the college that was recognized in 2012 with the St. Olaf Athletics Service Award.

Read Pearson’s full obituary here.