Professor Emeritus Theodorus van Es died on October 8, 2022, at the age of 92. Van Es was born shortly before World War II in Rotterdam. Food was very scarce, and he told stories of himself and his mother riding on their bicycles into the countryside to buy eggs from a farmer they knew. It was dangerous, and they feared being shot at by fighter planes or being stopped at checkpoints. In the city they faced air raids from both the allies and the Germans. There was a famine in much of Western Europe after the war, so when he was fourteen the family migrated to South Africa.
He completed his formal education at the University of Witwatersrand, earning a B.Sc. in chemistry and physics with honors in 1954, and his doctorate in Organic Chemistry in 1961. Along the way he worked in the gold mines collecting samples for analysis from deep underground and performing the analyses. He rapidly decided against further work in the mines!
Van Es taught and did research at Witwatersrand from 1957 through 1968 and returned there as visiting professor of chemistry while on sabbatical in 1990-91. In 1968 he joined the faculty of what was then Rutgers College. Between 1979 and 1989 he served as chair of Biochemistry and Director of the Graduate Program in Biochemistry on the Busch Campus. He moved to the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in 1992, in what was then Cook College, now the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, where he remained until his retirement.
Van Es’s research focused on the biochemistry and chemistry of carbohydrates, the development and properties of non-immunogenic enzymes with emphasis on their use as therapeutic agents, and in enzymatic reactions in organic solvents. The work led to a patent, shared with two colleagues, on non-immunogenic polypeptides (pegolated enzymes). As of the end of 1992, when he ceased to keep records, the patent had earned the university approximately $3 million.
A Fulbright Award in 1986-87 enabled him to spend a year’s sabbatical at the University of Botswana. While there he collaborated on the analysis of chlorinated pesticides from animal tissues from northern Botswana. The work was presented at a symposium in Gaborone in 1988.
Professor van Es was a dedicated teacher throughout his career. Over the years he taught many graduate and undergraduate lecture and laboratory courses. Since joining the Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology, his classroom teaching focused on large courses: Introductory Biochemistry, a one-semester course and our two-semester General Biochemistry course. In spite of the severe demands on his time of administrative positions, he always made time for individual students who came to him for help with material or for counseling. He would spend as much time in one-on-one conversation as needed and gained a reputation as one of the kindest of men. Typical of him was taking the time to help a stranded student change a flat tire on her car. She must have reported that to the dean, who sent him a wonderful letter of appreciation.
In addition to classroom and laboratory course teaching, Professor van Es, served on several M.S. or Ph.D. thesis committees each year. Five students earned their doctorates in his lab, in addition a very large number of undergraduates who did research with him.