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From the Chemistry Department

Former Faculty Colleague Evan Kyba Passes Away

kybaIt is with profound sadness that the family of Evan P. Kyba, Ph.D., announces his death on Sunday, September 15, 2019. After four years of major health challenges with cardiac and renal disease, Evan determined the game he fought so valiantly had run its course. He chose to forgo further medical treatment and to spend his last days with his devoted family, in the comfort of his home with hospice care. True to his competitive nature, Evan summed up his decision to Ferne, his wife and best friend for 57 years, this way: “There’s 2 minutes left in the game and the score is 50-0.”

Evan joined the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor in 1972, following postdoctoral work with Professor Donald Cram at UCLA. There, Evan worked on the early stages of the host-guest chemistry for which Professor Cram shared the Nobel Prize in 1987.

Evan rose through the academic ranks to become a full professor. His early independent research career was marked by numerous publications in the area of physical-organic chemistry, followed by a series of important contributions in the synthesis of organophosphorus and organometallic compounds. A demanding and highly regarded teacher and mentor to his undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral associates, he also contributed to departmental administrative duties, including serving as associate chair of the department. In this latter role, he dealt with challenging issues, particularly those associated with the assignment of and remodeling of research spaces and the accommodation of new senior-level faculty members.

In 1987, a former student lured Evan away from his tenured faculty position to join Alcon Laboratories in Fort Worth. He was tasked with developing a Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Evan is credited with building and managing an organization that produced three block-buster drugs that scored sales of several billion dollars. These products helped Alcon become one of the world’s largest ophthalmic pharmaceutical companies and played a key role in Nestle’s sale of Alcon to Novartis.

During his time at Alcon, Evan maintained his connections with the College of Natural Sciences by serving on the Dean's Advisory Council. Of particular interest to him was advocating for the development of the Freshman Research Initiative. Evan retired from Alcon as Vice President for Research in 2005. He returned to Austin where he continued his association and work with the College, while continuing world travels and enjoying time with family and friends. Always intellectually curious and motivated by the challenges of chemistry, Evan consulted with a startup company focused on developing a diagnostic product for Alzheimer’s disease until the last week of his life.  

Several months prior to his passing, Evan and Ferne endowed the Ferne and Evan Kyba Professorship in Chemistry. This gift provided Evan with a comforting sense of closure and fulfillment in “paying it forward” by assuring enduring support to The University of Texas and the Department of Chemistry.

A celebration of Evan’s life will be held in Austin from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at the County Line on the Hill, 6500 Bee Cave Road (FM 2244).

In lieu of flowers, please consider honoring Evan’s philanthropic spirit, and the Kyba’s strong belief in “paying it forward.” Memorial donations may be directed to The University of Texas at Austin, designating the Ferne and Evan Kyba Professorship in Chemistry, or the Kyba Family Undergraduate Scholarship in Nursing; or to a charity of your choice. Please use the following address for online donations. Donors will need to select “Natural Sciences” or “Nursing” and simply add the name of the endowment in the text box at the bottom of the page: https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/utgiving/online/nlogon/?source=GIV.

For checks, please make the check payable to “UT Austin” and write the name of the endowment to which you wish to contribute in the memo line. These will be processed for both Natural Sciences and Nursing by: Sergio Delgado, Chief Development Officer UT Austin School of Nursing 1710 Red River Street Austin, TX 78712.

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