In Memoriam - Professor Laurie Huestis

Bonny and Laurence Huestis

Bonny and Laurence Huestis

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Laurence Huestis, Ph.D., a retired chemistry professor who served the PLU community from 1961 to 1999. Laurence received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his doctorate from U.C., Davis. He joined PLU after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

During his 38 years at PLU, Laurence had a significant impact on students and campus programs. He created a chemistry majors’ seminar program, the forerunner of PLU’s senior capstone seminar. He initiated several organic experiments designed for exceptional students. He revised several laboratories comprehensively. And, in 1996, he made noteworthy contributions to the department’s curriculum revisions.

Laurence was trained as an organic chemist, but regularly taught analytical chemistry — a course he revamped at PLU. He also taught mineralogy in Geosciences. He was instrumental in the National Science Foundation grant that obtained the university’s first scanning electron microscope. And he led the grant proposal that brought PLU its first GCMS (gas chromatograph with mass spectrometer), a key instrument for organic chemical analysis, in the mid-1980s — amid the opening of Rieke Science Center. He also helped develop the Organic Special Projects Laboratory, which continues to support student training in advanced lab techniques.

Laurence assumed many leadership roles, including chair of the Chemistry Department (1970-1973), member of the Rank and Tenure Committee, faculty library liaison officer for the Chemistry, and member of the Health Sciences Committee.

“Laurence was an organizer’s organizer,” Professor Craig Fryhle recalled of his colleague. “He kept all of his laboratory supplies and chemicals in a pristine state of order.”

He also brought color into students’ education. “Laurence always thought it was more interesting for students to make colorful compounds instead of just another white powder,” Fryhle added.

But perhaps the most notable mark Laurence left at PLU — even after his retirement — was his commitment to students’ professional and academic development. He mentored many students in undergraduate research, training them for entry to graduate school and employment. His efforts also served as a catalyst for many future medical school students. Additionally, in 2014, Laurence and his wife, Bonny, established the Laurence and Bonny Huestis Endowment for Chemistry Undergraduate Summer Research.

“Dr. Huestis was committed to the transformative power of student-faculty undergraduate research, and he often spoke of the impact it had on the lives of so many of his students,” said Neal Yakelis, chair of chemistry. “Laurence was proud that our students are accepted into top-notch graduate programs, and the Huestis Endowment supports our departmental commitment to excellence in undergraduate education through student-faculty research.”

When he wasn’t working or visiting his family in California, Laurence sang with several Tacoma-area choral groups, both on and off campus, including: PLU Chapel Choir, Summit United Methodist Church Choir and South Sound Classical Choir.

If you would like to share memories of Dr. Huestis, please email and we’ll pass them onto the family.

A memorial service honoring Laurence is schedule for the afternoon of Saturday, April 14, at 2:00PM at Summit United Methodist Church, 5316 104th St E, Tacoma, WA 98466. The obituary may be viewed here.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Laurence D. and Bonny M. Huestis Endowment for Faculty/Student Summer Research in Chemistry. Donations may be given online at

  • Under “Designations” select “Choose one or more areas to direct your gift”
  • Scroll until you reach the “Natural Sciences” section
  • Select the “Laurence D. and Bonny M. Huestis Endowment” and click “continue”

Donations may also be mailed to Pacific Lutheran University, Office of Advancement, 12180 Park Avenue South, Tacoma, WA 98447.

Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis with a student, 1960s.
Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis with a student, 1981.
Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis with students, 1960s.
Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis, 1966.
Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis with a student, 1977.
Larry Huestis
Professor Huestis with students, 1980.
Huestis and Tobiason
Fred Tobiason & Laurie Huestis, 1980.