On December 23, 2000 Phyllis Ambler Brauner succumbed to multiple infections, following a heart attack.
She was born October 2, 1916 in Natick, MA, the daughter of Albert W. and Pauline (Parker) Ambler.
She graduated from Walnut Hill School in Natick, earned an A.B. in chemistry from Wheaton College in 1938, and received an M.A. from Wellesley College in 1940. From 1938-1939 she taught at Winwood School in Lake Grove, NY From 1940-1941 she worked at Bellevue Hospital in New York with future Nobel Laureate André Cournand.
She was a graduate assistant and chemical analyst at Purdue University when she met her future husband, William Brauner, a physicist and electrical engineer. After he finished his degree work they moved to the Boston area where both worked for General Electric Co. and Phyllis subsequently took a teaching job at Northeastern University. After Mr. Brauner accepted a job at the Franklin Institute, the couple moved to Philadelphia where Phyllis joined the staff of Swarthmore College.
Mr. Brauner was on a mission for the U.S. Army when he was killed in an airplane crash in 1948, leaving Phyllis with their two daughters. Following this tragic turn of events, Phyllis took a full-time teaching position at Simmons College and returned to graduate school at Boston University where she received a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry in 1959, working with Prof. Arno Heyn.
She lived in the house of her mother, Mrs. Ambler, who helped her in raising the two daughters.
During her years on the staff of Simmons College she spent a sabbatical leave in Switzerland, working with Prof. Gerold Schwarzenbach at the ETH, Zurich, an academic leave in Sweden, working with Prof. Lars Sillen at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, and at the Swiss Federal Institute for Water Resources and Water Pollution Control at Dubendorf, working with Dr. Werner Stumm, and served as director of the NSF Summer Institutes for High School Teachers at Simmons, 1968-1974. In 1983 she received the Simmons College Florence Sargent Award for outstanding teaching on the occasion of her retirement.
Soon after “retirement” she accepted a position to teach U.S. military personnel and set up laboratories in Japan and on Guam 1983-4 under the auspices of the University of Maryland Armed Forces School. After returning to the Boston area she became a Visiting Lecturer at Framingham State College where she remained until retiring again in 1997.
Her activities in the Northeastern Section were numerous and of lasting impact. She was full of ideas for new activities and set about putting them into action. Thus she organized the several “ACS Night at Pops” events and the first “Summerthing” event, at Woods Hole, MA In subsequent years she and her friend Janet Perkins continued the tradition and organized several successful “Summerthing” events at different locations. Later, Phyllis was instrumental in starting the Holiday Lectures by securing Prof. Bassam Shakhashiri as lecturer/demonstrator for the last several years. and chaired the program committee of the first Northeast Regional ACS Meeting in Boston in 1969.
In 1974 she became the first female “Chairman” of the Northeastern Section, and in 1985 she received the Henry A. Hill Award for Outstanding Service to the Northeastern Section
She has chaired several committees, been a Councilor of the Northeastern Section for 15 years, a Trustee for 6 years, and a past editor of The Nucleus for about 6 years.
Her sense of adventure and scientific curiosity took her to many parts of the world, both before and after her retirement. She was selected to represent the United States scientists in a People to People program behind the iron curtain in the 1970s, joined a U.S./Soviet project analyzing the water of Lake Baikal in Siberia in 1987, and participated in two Earthwatch expeditions, one to Poland, where she studied endangered wolves, and one in the South Pacific where she helped map ancient Polynesian monuments. She and Janet Perkins traveled to China, being some of the first U.S. scientists to do so after travel to that country was reopened.
She has published results of her Ph.D. research work and co-authored her research work carried our during her academic leaves.
In 1992 she was inducted into Boston University’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Having been her thesis supervisor in the early 50s, your editor knew Phyllis about as long as any current member of the Northeastern Section. Her cheerful disposition, quiet competence and ability to dig in and work to make things happen, without making much noise about it, endeared her to all. I must admit, that at times, we in the Section took unfair advantage of her by loading projects on her shoulders which should have been shared with others.
Her annual Christmas messages gave interesting accounts of her many travels and activities and we have kept them and re-read them with pleasure many times.
On January 7, 2001 a memorial service was held in the Village Church in Wellesley, MA. The reception following the service looked very much like a NESACS meeting, with so many of her former NESACS friends and associates present to honor her memory.
Phyllis leaves two daughters, Catherine Brauner of Wellesley and Susan Brauner of Harwich Port, a granddaughter and her husband, and very recently, a great-granddaughter.
Most of the above has been taken from text prepared by her daughter Catherine, with emendations by your editor.