Remembering Professor Hans J. Reich (1943-2020)

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We are sad to report that alumnus Professor Hans J Reich (PhD ’68 Cram) died on May 1 at the age of 76 from an injury sustained in a bicycle accident.

A Professor Emeritus of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Reich led an internationally recognized research program in physical-organic chemistry for over 50 years.  

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Alberta in 1964, Reich went on to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1968 from UCLA, where he worked for Nobel Laureate Donald J. Cram. He published seven papers with Cram on [2.2]paracyclophane chemistry.

At UCLA Reich met his wife Dr. Ieva Lazdins, who was a fellow organic chemistry graduate student conducting research in Professor Saul Winstein’s group. After marrying in 1969, Reich and Lazdins moved to Madison, where she contributed greatly to the success of many projects as a researcher in the Reich lab. Lazdins later became an award-winning organic chemistry senior lecturer at UW Madison.

“Hans and I were contemporaries, and his mechanistic discoveries about organoselenenium and organolithium chemistry were models of great physical organic chemistry,” said Professor Ken Houk, UCLA’s Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry. “He and Ieva were big fans of Don Cram and of UCLA, where they met and launched their very successful careers. We are sad to lose Hans, one of UCLA’s finest graduates.”

After his time at UCLA, Reich then completed two postdocs, the first with UCLA alumnus Professor J. D. “Jack” Roberts at the California Institute of Technology, and the second with Professor Robert Burns Woodward at Harvard University.  

Reich joined the chemistry department at UW Madison as an assistant professor in 1970. He was promoted to associate professor in 1976 and full professor in 1979. He received the prestigious James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry in 2012. 

From Professor Reich’s obituary:

Hans J. Reich, age 76, of Madison, died May 1, 2020 from an injury sustained in a bicycle accident. 

Hans was born May 6, 1943 in Danzig, Germany, to Oswald and Martha (Adam) Reich.  Martha and her infant son fled the advancing Russian army during January 1945, making their way to a small village in western Germany.  Hans’ father was wounded in battle and remained in France as a forced laborer for three years following the war.  He rejoined the family in 1948 and they emigrated to Edmonton, Canada in 1950, initially living in a garage without electricity, shared with another family.  These formative years shaped Hans’ perspective on life.  After earning a B.Sc. at the University of Alberta in 1964, Hans entered graduate school at UCLA, receiving a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1968 (with D. J. Cram).  In graduate school, he met fellow organic chemistry student, Ieva Lazdins.  Hans and Ieva married in 1969.  The two were lifelong companions, socially and scientifically.  After graduate school, Hans spent two years as a postdoctoral associate supported by a Canadian National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, the first at Cal Tech (with J. D. Roberts) and the second at Harvard (with R. B. Woodward). 

In 1970, Hans joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, establishing what soon became an internationally recognized research program in physical-organic chemistry. Fittingly, Hans received the James Flack Norris Award in Physical-Organic Chemistry from the American Chemical Society in 2012. He gave generously of his time, serving as chair of the organic chemistry division and associate chair of the chemistry department. Drawing on materials developed for his exceptional graduate-level courses in organic chemistry, Hans curated a website of detailed, practical chemistry resources that is used by organic chemists around the world. Hans was an exceptional mentor to students, department staff, and faculty colleagues. He was universally respected for his good judgement and wise counsel. 

Hans enjoyed nature photography, snorkeling, and traveling. He was a learned student of history. He proudly retained his Canadian citizenship, in honor of the country that welcomed his family at a time of desperate need. 

Hans is survived by his wife, Ieva, her brother Andris (Susan) Lazdins, nieces Jennifer (Andrew) Swarm and Jessica (Goran) Vuk, nephew Derek (Kim) Parker, grand-niece Lana Vuk, grand-nephews Aiden and Brett Parker, and many cousins and their families residing largely in Canada. He was preceded in death by his father in 1977, his stepfather, Rudi Zander, in 1989, and his mother in 2019. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a private funeral service will be held at Midvale Community Lutheran Church. A celebration of Hans’ life will be held at a later date. 

In lieu of gifts or flowers, please donate to Hans’ favorite charities, Planned Parenthood and Brady: United Against Gun Violence, or to your favorite charity. 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Hans J. Reich, please visit the Cress Funeral Home floral store.


Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,