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Thursday, June 01, 2023

UF professor emeritus Harry Sisler is remembered for endeavors such as teaching for free during tough times or aiding NASA's Apollo program in the '60s.

In recognition of his accomplishments, particularly in UF's chemistry department, about 120 people gathered Wednesday morning at the Chemistry Research Building to officially rename it Harry H. Sisler Hall.

Sisler, who died in December 2006 at 89, came to UF in 1956 as head of the chemistry department.

He later moved into top leadership positions such as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the university's executive vice president, all while teaching at least one class a year.

While professors in his department suggested naming the building for Sisler as early as 1991, there was an obstacle: Buildings on campus are normally named after big-time financial donors, said Daniel Talham, a UF chemistry professor.

However, Sisler's knack for leadership and love for teaching was widely recognized, and last year, every member in UF's chemistry department signed a resolution supporting naming the building in Sisler's honor.

UF Trustee Steve Scott touted a few of the chemistry department's accomplishments, such as a Nobel Prize-winning graduate, during the building's dedication.

"It's a unique honor to memorialize a faculty member," Scott said.

The Sisler Hall sign was unveiled by Sisler's daughter, stepson and widow, Hannelore Wass, who is also a UF professor emeritus.

"I very much missed him this morning," said Wass, 82. "It makes me very proud to have been his life partner."

They met at the university and were married for 30 years.

Wass taught in the Department of Educational Psychology.

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Of all her husband's accomplishments, Wass said he most loved to teach large lecture classes and smaller labs.

"He would come to his office just about every day, as long as he could," she said.

When UF faced what Talham called "dire fiscal times" in 1992, Sisler came out of retirement to teach - for free.

"I think he would be very, very gratified," Wass said.

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