Eulogy for Roy L. Whistler
Presented by Betty Suddarth
Given at Rotary Club March 2, 2010

Roy Whistler, who died on February 7, would have been 98 years old on the 31st of this month. Newer members of Rotary probably don't know much if anything about him. You may have read in the Journal and Courier about his many accomplishments and awards during his lifetime. He was clearly a bright, energetic and successful distinguished professor. Today I'd like to give you a little additional picture of this remarkable man.

Roy's mother died when he was a baby. When he was around two years old, his father took him to his grandparents in Tiffin, Ohio. Roy was raised by his paternal grandparents and he always considered them his parents. They lived on the edge of the Sandusky River and even though poor, Roy enjoyed days on the river with his friends which probably was the start of his interest in nature. Roy also was born with a cleft palate which was not corrected until he was in his teens. This condition did not seem to stop or discourage him. He worked at various jobs but mainly in a grocery store where he did all kinds of tasks and met lots of community members who became friends of this very out-going young man. Roy attended the local college, Heidelberg, living at home and working. After graduation, he was able to attend Ohio State for a master's degree and Iowa State for a PhD. Roy launched his successful career with a post doctoral appointment with the National Bureau of Standards, and then became the head of the USDA Northern Regional Research Lab in Illinois. He came to Purdue in 1946 as an assistant professor of biochemistry. West Lafayette was his home from that time until his death last month.

He joined the Lafayette Rotary Club in 1949 and was the president of the club in 1963. He attended and participated regularly until failing health prevented him for the last few years. One of his most colorful participations happened at the Rotary Park which was north of Lafayette. Lots of Rotary and community activities occurred there. The Rotary club had numerous outings there and at one point in time they had trap shooting contests. Roy was a very skilled marksman. He liked to hunt and often went hunting for duck, pheasant and so on with his friends in agriculture. I think even Mauri Williamson and he had a few outings. Anyway, as Bob Verplank recalls, when Rotary had their shooting matches, Roy nearly always won. Years after, Roy talked about the fun they had.

Roy also liked to travel. As well as traveling for pleasure, he had many opportunities to travel because of lecturing, attending conferences and consulting. He actually traveled all over the world and was on nearly every continent. He particularly loved Africa and was there many times. Earlier he was involved in big game hunting which later turned into photography trips instead. He loved nature and wildlife and as a result established the Roy L. Whistler Foundation in 1997. The foundation is dedicated to the preservation of natural land and wildlife, and the support of other organizations that further these purposes. Several Rotarians have been members of this board. Grants have been given to many organizations. Among them, NICHES, Tippecanoe County Parks and Recreation Department for the Celery Bog and Heritage Trail, Wildcat Creek Foundation and others. NICHES honored Roy by naming a property near the Granville Bridge the Roy Whistler Wildlife Area. Roy was able to attend the dedication and was very touched by this recognition.

Roy was also active in the University Senate and was the Faculty Representative for Intercollegiate Athletics for many years. As such, he attended most games, both at home and away. He only stopped going to home basketball and football games a few years ago.

When Roy turned 65, Purdue had a mandatory retirement age. Even though no longer on the payroll, Roy went to the office nearly every day, conducted research and supervised post-doctoral students until he was in his 90's.

One of the most remarkable things about this remarkable man was his optimism. He always said, "Research scientists have to be optimistic because they have so many failures. They have to believe the next experiment will be successful." That explains part of it but there is a trend here that goes back to childhood - overcoming hardships and obstacles, supporting himself through college but being optimistic through it all. He was probably the most optimistic individual I have ever met. It contributed positively to his life his entire 97 years. Even when his health was failing and you asked him how he was, he would smile and say "Fine".

This man, with a building, research center and professorial chair named for him, numerous awards including four honorary degrees, numerous graduate students and post docs around the world who studied with him, is still remembered by a Rotarian friend as "this kind and gentle man". Let's remember him that way too.