April 2021

My Reminiscences of Henry Lim

The passing of my good friend Henry Lim is an occasion to recall with sadness, gratitude and pleasure the many years of his being a friend and colleague at Purdue. He had an infectious warmth about him that was spontaneous and overwhelming. As a person a few years junior to him, I had the advantage of his looking out for my interests and assisting me into the academic culture at Purdue. There was an atmosphere of expectation of newcomers but the spirit of camaraderie transformed our anxiety into an indomitable spirit of academic togetherness and collaboration. We trotted the halls perhaps with some youthful arrogance mostly discussing ideas, perhaps occasionally with an overdose of exuberance. Lowell Koppel had spurred the department on to new heights!

Much praise has been showered on Henry for his pleasant disposition with colleagues and close relationship to students. While this was unquestionably true, he also had the makings of a rebel who would express himself with minimal restraint when he encountered something he believed to be unfair! This is perhaps the trait of a man dedicated to fairness in his own dealings with others. In particular he was a friend of students and would go to any lengths to help them. I know of a few that he has had that none on the faculty would have favored! There is the instance of one such student known to be extraordinarily bright but had been disturbed mentally. He was confined to a hospital for some weeks and was to be sent home when discharged. It seemed best to restore him to his family's care with a Master's degree (instead of the PhD degree for which he was enrolled). Henry's helping to write his thesis himself was an extraordinary gesture!

Henry had no qualms about speaking freely about embarrassing experiences. One instance that comes to mind was his bemoaning to a program manager from NSF how a declined proposal had seriously interrupted his funding when the manager retorted with "hold it, let me get the violin!" When Henry had already been promoted to an Associate Professor his youthful looks had led a senior professor in the department to inquire of him as to when he was going to get his degree!

Henry and I published a number of papers together and, if he had not gone west, there would have been many more as we had shared neighboring offices and it was a pleasure to work with him. We were fortunate to visit him in 2014 at Irvine and spend an entire day with him.

His parties at home were always most entertaining. Sunny was every bit as fun with her dry wit. One felt that there was a lot more to come when she started on a humorous inquiry.

It is sad that both Henry and Sunny passed in such quick succession. This is for those of us who are still around but for a couple such as them neither one would want to outlive the other!

Ramki and Geetha Ramkrishna,West Lafayette, Indiana

Prof. Doraiswami Ramkrishna, Harry Creighton Peffer Distinguished Professor,
Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University