Professor Emeritus George Gutnikov, who dedicated 45 years to the chemistry department, died Jan. 3.
Gutnikov, a Claremont resident, began teaching chemistry at Cal Poly Pomona in 1970 and retired in 2016. During his tenure, he worked with other professors to help grow and advance the program.
Professor Michael Page, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, recalled being new to the faculty and meeting Gutnikov.
“On my first day teaching at CPP, I followed teaching in the classroom after George,” Page said. “I gave him a big handshake and he remarked, ’The junior faculty keeps getting younger and younger.’”
Gutnikov left a legacy from which students today are still benefiting, Page said.
“I personally marvel at the 40-plus years that George contributed to our department,” he said. “George was a part of the trio of analytical faculty who built the legacy of our current program that features a full suite of upper-division analytical courses. This legacy has continued to serve our students so well.”
Professor Emeritus Michael Keith saw how dedicated Gutnikov was to his students when Keith was a young professor in the late 1980s. Keith was on campus often on the weekends directing research students or prepping his courses, and he would see Gutnikov there working with his graduate students.
“Most of his graduate students had full-time, 40-hours-per-week jobs, and the only free time they had available was on the weekends,” Keith said. “So, George made himself available on the weekends so that they could complete their research projects and fulfill their M.S. requirements. I was always impressed by George’s dedication to their success.”
Besides his love of teaching, Gutnikov was an avid hockey player who would wake up early every morning to practice in the rink, occasionally appearing a bit stiff and sore from playing, Keith said. He recalled seeing Gutnikov with a cast on his foot about eight years ago and assuming it was a hockey injury.
“When asked about it, he sheepishly responded that he had incurred it while teaching one of his grandchildren how to skateboard,” Keith said. “I responded by saying he should stick to hockey, where at least he understood the hazards more.”
Gutnikov is survived by his wife Gerda and children Thomas, Markus and Yvonne, as well as his grandchildren Misha, Sasha, William, Aiken and Kai.