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The Passing of Samuel Wait Jr. ’53

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Samuel Wait Jr. ’53

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Dr. Samuel Wait Jr. ’53, who served on the School of Science academic leadership team for nearly 40 years, on Jan. 23. He was 88.

Dr. Wait arrived at Rensselaer in 1949 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1953. He would go on to receive a master’s and a doctoral degree, both in chemistry, from the Institute in 1955 and 1956, respectively. After studying in London, England as a Fulbright Scholar, he went to the University of Minnesota for postdoctoral research, held a visiting appointment at Carnegie Institute of Technology, and worked for a year as a research scientist at the National Bureau of Standards.

Dr. Wait returned to Rensselaer in 1961 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. He became an Associate Professor in 1964 and a Professor in 1971. In addition to his teaching and research, he also served as a member of the academic leadership team within the School of Science as Assistant Dean of Science from 1972 to 1974 and Associate Dean of Science from 1974 to his retirement in 2009. He also served as Acting Dean of Science on three separate occasions during times of leadership change in the school.

Dr. Wait’s contributions to Rensselaer are immeasurable. In addition to his academic leadership, he mentored hundreds of students and faculty members and he cared deeply about the university. He was a proud alumnus and was honored to receive the Alumni Admissions Recognition of Excellence Award in 1993, the Alumni Key in 1994, the Demers Medal in 1997, the Rensselaer Alumni Association (RAA) Fellows Award in 2003, and the RAA Distinguished Service Award in 2005.

He was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Carol D. Wait. He is survived by their two children, Robert J. Wait (Judith Jablonski) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Alison R. Grossblatt-Wait of Portland, Oregon. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no memorial service is scheduled at this time. Donations can be made to the Carol D. and Samuel C. Wait Jr. ’53 Undergraduate Research Scholars Fund at Rensselaer, or to the charity of one’s choice. 

Our deepest thoughts are with the family and friends of Dr. Samuel Wait, and we honor the contributions he made to both the Rensselaer community and to the world.