Utah State University’s College of Science announces the R. Gaurth Hansen Professorship in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Established as an endowment by the Hansen Family, the professorship honors the memory of the renowned biochemist, who served USU as a senior administrator, professor and researcher from 1968 to 1994.
“We are excited to continue to honor the legacy of Dr. R. Gaurth Hansen in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at USU,” says Lance Seefeldt, department head and professor. “We are grateful to the Hansen family for this exceptional opportunity and their longstanding support of many innovative initiatives within our department.”
The professorship provides for an exceptionally accomplished faculty member from current tenured faculty to receive the title, along with a yearly stipend of $30,000 to augment research efforts. The aim of the award is to leverage funding opportunities and thus advance opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.
“The Hansen family is pleased our father’s contributions will be recognized with the creation of the named professorship,” wrote Hansen’s sons Roger, Ted and Lars in a joint statement. “Our parents, Gaurth and Anna Lou (Rees Hansen), had a longstanding commitment to USU and their dedication was evident from our father’s sustained leadership role at the university and our mother’s continual, behind-the-scenes support.”
The sons write their father sought to further the intellectual excellence of Utah State.
“Our father supported this goal in his capacity as a provost and as a professor in the College of Science, while continuing to conduct frontier research in biochemistry,” they wrote. “He placed a very high priority on higher education and passed this aspiration to his children and grandchildren. His legacy lives on with his great-grandchildren.”
Anna Lou, two of his sons and a granddaughter are USU alumni.
Further, the sons wrote, Hansen supported the careers of numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, “several of whom have gone on to make seminal findings of medical relevance.”
“We hope the support provided to future scholars by this professorship will nurture continued excellence in biochemistry at USU,” the statement concludes. “We can think of no better way to honor our father’s commitment to higher education and exceptional scholarship.”
USU President Noelle Cockett says the Hansen family has a long and varied history of providing support for Utah State University.
“Although I did not have the opportunity to meet Gaurth, I have enjoyed my interactions with the other family members, particularly Anna Lou during my time as dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences,” Cockett says. “Mrs. Hansen is a wonderfully sweet and generous woman, who has instilled those same attributes in her children. We are honored to call the Hansen family our friends.”
The professorship joins decades of support to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry honoring Hansen in the form of assistant professorships, scholarships, seminars and an annual retreat.
Starting in 2003, four of the department’s faculty members entered their USU careers as R. Gaurth Hansen Assistant Professors of Biochemistry, which provided them with start-up funds. Since 1999, 21 undergraduates have received the R. Gaurth Hansen, Ph.D. Endowed Scholarship to further their studies and enable their participation in research. Beginning in 1996, outstanding doctoral students have been honored as Hansen Scholars, receiving a cash scholarship each year for up to five years, to advance their studies.
Established in 2003, the R. Gaurth Hansen Seminar Series brings an internationally renowned speaker to campus each year to provide a public lecture in a cutting-edge area of biochemistry.
September 2020 marks the 10th annual Hansen Life Sciences Retreat, which brings students and faculty from diverse departments throughout the university, who are working toward understanding biological processes at the molecular level, together to share research and foster collaborations. Participation in the annual gathering, which will be held virtually this year due to the pandemic, has increased each year.
“The R. Gaurth Hansen Professorship continues this tremendous legacy of support and academic excellence,” Seefeldt says. “This milestone represents the first named professor in our department and in the College of Science. We are grateful and proud to honor Dr. Hansen’s memory through this and all prior initiatives.”
Born in Cache Valley in 1920, Hansen began his undergraduate studies at Utah State, before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, where he completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Hansen joined USU’s faculty as an academic vice president in 1968, and was soon promoted to provost. His efforts greatly advanced Utah State’s instruction and research activities and contributed to a twenty-fold increase in the university’s research budget.
In addition to his administrative and teaching endeavors, Hansen published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals, along with more than 20 books and book chapters. He received many prestigious national and international accolades, contributed service to the U.S. Public Health Service and the Department of Defense, through which he provided consulting expertise to public and private entities throughout the world.
Hansen was named USU Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 1985 and retired from the university in 1994. He passed away in 2002. His widow, Anna Lou, resides in St. George, Utah.