In Memoriam: Donald K. Anderson

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October 4, 2010

Donald Keith Anderson of Williamston, Mich., professor emeritus and past chair of the chemical engineering department, died September 26, 2010, of brain cancer.

He was born July 15, 1931, in Iron Mountain, Mich., to Milton and Edna Anderson.

After earning his graduate degrees at the University of Washington, he began his career at MSU. He joined the faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1960 and served as chairperson of the department from 1977-1995. He retired in 1996.

Anderson was a quiet man of integrity, honor, and intelligence, with keen interest in all the sciences. He wrote and published numerous technical articles and was a member of several professional societies. He served on the Governor's Board for Waste Site Development and was internationally renowned for his work with universities on four continents on standards for chemical engineering education.

“He had a stellar career here at MSU, providing strong leadership during the time that MSU was embarking on increased attention to research and graduate education while maintaining balance with undergraduate education,” says Martin C. Hawley, professor and chairperson of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. “Don was active in both AICHE [the American Institute of Chemical Engineers] and ABET [the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology] and he was proud of the accomplishments of the faculty and his students. His emphasis was on hiring stellar faculty and attracting high-quality students. We are currently impacted by the impression that Don has left on our department and college.”

After retirement, Anderson was most often found in his recliner chair, reading or perhaps watching Spartan sports on television, with his beloved cats vying for a place on his lap. He genuinely enjoyed attending his grandchildren's sporting and dance events.

“This is a great loss for the Anderson family and for MSU,” says Hawley. “Don will be greatly missed, but he will be remembered for his professional accomplishments and his humanity. He was a very kind person.”

Survivors include his wife and companion of 53 years, Gina Garrett; daughters Shannon Coykendall (Kevin) and Amanda Wessel (Scott); grandchildren Samantha and Victoria Coykendall, and Cody Wessel; brother Gilmore Anderson (Jeanne); and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Eugene Anderson (Viola).

Anderson’s special interest and love was for his cats, who grieve his loss also. Those desiring may honor his memory with donations to Purrfect Pals (located in Arlington, Washington; 360-652-9611;, Cat Tail Farms (located in Perry, Michigan), or the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University. (Contact Gorsline-Runciman in Williamston, Michigan, for addresses.)

Cremation has taken place. There will be no formal service, but a memorial gathering will be held at a later date.