Yorke E. Rhodes passed away on October 10, 2022, after struggling with pneumonia for several weeks. Professor Rhodes earned his B.S. from the University of Delaware in 1957 and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1964. He joined the faculty of NYU in 1965 at the (then) University Heights campus and came to the chemistry department here on the Square in 1973 where he remained until his retirement in the early 2000s. Over the course of his career, Professor Rhodes worked in the areas of SO2 solvent chemistry, electrocyclic reactions, small ring chemistry, and carbocations, especially neighboring group cyclopropane-assisted cation rearrangements. Additional work on carbocations, led to alkyl group migratory aptitude studies and to synthetic studies in silyl ketene acetal chemistry for synthesis of quaternary neopentyls. He also carried out theoretical work in carbocations and on astrochemical studies of the stability and modes of formation of astromolecules, molecules in planetary atmospheres and in interstellar clouds. He was a Humboldt Senior Scientist Awardee in 1978 at the TU in Munich.
Yorke Rhodes was very active in the American Chemical Society, including serving as Chair of the ACS New York Section, and was involved in major educational initiatives. Professor Rhodes was director of the Dual Degree Program in Science and Engineering at New York University and Stevens Institute of Technology, and he spent several years nurturing undergraduates as Professor in Residence in an NYU residence hall. Here in the chemistry department, he was recognized as a passionate educator and an instructor who inspired some of our top students. In his JBC ASBMB award article, NYU alumnus Neil Garg (currently a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Kenneth N. Trueblood Endowed Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles) noted the following:
"For decades, organic chemistry has been reputed as being a gatekeeper class. Without scoring an A grade in this class, it would supposedly be impossible to secure medical school admission. It is interesting to note that nowhere along the way did anyone explain to me the relevance of organic chemistry, or that it was really just a class about creativity and problem-solving. It was not until my first day of organic chemistry class that I heard this perspective. Rather than diving straight into the material, Professor Yorke Rhodes spent the entire first lecture giving us a pep talk. 'Do not try to memorize and regurgitate information,' and “this class is all about critical thinking” are the messages he conveyed. I remember leaving class thinking that this class would be different from all of the other science classes I had taken so far, and I was excited."
Chemistry Department Chair Mark Tuckerman remembers "Yorke was one of the friendliest, ebullient, and sociable members of our department. I have missed his positive disposition and gregarious personality since he retired. In the early days of my career, he was always encouraging and full of good advice. I know many current members of our department never had the opportunity to get to know Yorke, but I am certain he would have been an immediate friend to our younger members!"
Yorke Rhodes always spoke adoringly of his family, including his wife Mechthilde and three sons who are NYU alumni: Yorke E. Rhodes III, Timothy Rhodes, and Chris Rhodes. All of us at NYU Chemistry who remember their father fondly, send warm wishes and sympathy to the family.
Les Mcquire (Team Director at Novartis and American Chemical Society colleague) posted this site dedicated to York Rhodes including this Bio (click here) and this page devoted to NYU (click here) with terrific photos.