Rider mourns science professor who reshaped department

By Shanna O’Mara

Gerald Kent, a former science professor and chairman of the science department for 32 years, died on March 25 at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California, after a sudden illness. He was 85.

Kent began his career at Rider College in 1962, serving as an associate professor of chemistry and chairman of the division of natural sciences. In 1980, he was awarded the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award to recognize teaching excellence. He helped design the science labs in the new Science building and served as a professor and researcher before retiring in 1994.

“He changed a lot of people’s lives for the better,” said William McCarroll, an emeritus professor of chemistry. “He created the culture of the science department, although most people there now probably don’t know that.”

Kent was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Nov. 24, 1930, the only child of Elizabeth Tisdale Platt and Gerald Joseph Kent, Jr.

He attended Hillside High School and The Lawrenceville School before graduating from Upsala College with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. He earned graduate degrees in organic chemistry at Princeton, gaining a master’s degree in 1958 and a Ph.D. in 1959.

“He was an excellent teacher,” McCarroll said. “He loved 8 a.m. chemistry classes. He was always there on time and expected his students to be too. He had very high standards for his students, and those who lived up profitted.”

Kent was an athlete throughout his life, excelling on his high school’s baseball and football teams and being named to the 1948 all-state football team. He also played tennis into his 70s.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Birgit; two daughters, Samantha Kent and Christine Kent; a son, Matthew Kent; a grandson, Holden Butterfield; and his three beloved dogs, Morris, Sophie and Maddie.

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