Remembering Dr. Ralph Bauer (B.S. ’52, Ph.D. ’58)

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We are sad to report that alumnus and 2020 Alumni Legacy Award recipient Dr Ralph Bauer passed away on July 12, 2022, at the age of 92

Dr. Bauer was recently honored at the 2022 UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Departmental Awards ceremony on May 13, 2022. At the awards ceremony, the Bauer Legacy Award video, which provides insight into Dr. Bauer’s remarkable life and career, was shown, after which Dean of Physical Sciences Professor Miguel Garcia-Garibay presented Dr. Bauer with the 2020 Alumni Legacy Award. (Due to the pandemic, we were unable to celebrate Dr. Bauer’s award in 2020).

At the 2022 Departmental Awards Ceremony – Dr. Ralph Bauer with his award. Dr. Bauer and his wife Charlene Bauer with students who received the 2022 Ralph & Charlene Bauer Graduate Student Awards

In 1987, along with UCLA Development, Dr. Bauer formulated the idea for the department’s biggest and most important event of the year, the annual Seaborg Symposium and Medal Award Dinner. He was honored with the medal in 1992. 

(Left) At UCLA in 1995, Dr. Ralph Bauer with four other Glenn T. Seaborg Medalists – Dr. George Rathmann, Dr. John D. Roberts, Nobel Laureate Dr. Donald Cram, and Nobel Laureate Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg. (Right) In 2017, Dr. Bauer gave an inspiring talk to the department’s “Careers in Chemistry & Biochemistry” class

In 1988, the Bauers established an endowment in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department which provides fellowships and awards to UCLA graduate students. Over the years, hundreds of students have benefited from the Bauer awards and fellowships. At this year’s Departmental Awards Ceremony, the Bauers had the opportunity to meet and visit with the recipients of the 2022 Ralph & Charlene Bauer Awards.

In 2017, Dr. Bauer gave an inspiring talk to the department’s “Careers in Chemistry & Biochemistry” class in which he discussed his experiences in life and his passion for giving back to the community and for bettering oneself through education and hard work. 

About Dr. Ralph Bauer  

Dr. Ralph Bauer was born in Los Angeles of immigrant parents. After attending North Hollywood High School, Dr. Bauer entered UCLA in 1948 to study chemistry. From the very beginning of his time at UCLA, Dr. Bauer was a trail-blazer. He played freshman basketball during Coach John Wooden’s first year at UCLA and was influenced tremendously on the court and throughout his life by Wooden’s character-building “Pyramid of Success”. In 1952, Dr. Bauer received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and married his high school sweetheart Charlene Uhlik, also a UCLA alumna. He then spent two years in the U.S. Navy prior to returning to UCLA in 1954 to join the research group of Nobel Laureate Professor Donald Cram as a chemistry graduate student. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1958. Dr. Cram credited Dr. Bauer’s Ph.D. thesis as having foreshadowed the research for which he received the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  

After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Bauer joined Shell Development Corporation as a Research Scientist, and then in 1966, he joined Unocal as a Research Chemist. He became the International Marketing Manager of the Petrochemical Division of Unocal in 1983. Dr. Bauer retired from Unocal in 1985. 

Throughout his life, Dr. Bauer has been deeply involved in the communities in which he finds himself.  He has been very involved in local politics in his hometown, Huntington Beach. He served as the Mayor in 1997, as well as a councilmember from 1992 – 2002, and on various school boards. In addition to his work to improve the everyday lives of residents of Huntington Beach, Dr. Bauer has been a part of task forces on homelessness and on human relations through which he brought various religious leaders together crafted the statement on human dignity after a hate crime occurred in Huntington Beach. In 2012, a park in the city was dedicated in Dr. Bauer’s honor.

Dr. Bauer is survived by his wife, Charlene, his children Eric and Elaine as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Plans for a possible memorial service have not been set, Eric Bauer said.

Read Dr. Bauer’s obituary here.