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Mourning the passing of professor emeritus Dr. Zdeñek (Denny) Valenta

Author: Communications Office

Posted on Jul 29, 2019

Category: News and Notices

Please join me in offering condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of professor emeritus Dr. Zdeñek (Denny) Valenta, who passed away on July 20, 2019, in Fredericton. He was 92.

Born in Havlíčkuv Brod, Czechoslovakia, Denny completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the E.T.H. (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland in 1950. Upon graduation, he moved to Fredericton to attend UNB, where he studied under Dr. Karel Wiesner in the department of chemistry. At this time, UNB was one of the top 10 destinations in the world to do graduate work in organic chemistry. Denny received his MSc in 1952 and PhD in 1953.

Denny became a lecturer in UNB’s department of chemistry immediately after graduation and was eventually promoted to professor and head of the department in 1963. He became a research professor in 1990 and retired in 1993.  He was named professor emeritus at that year’s fall convocation.

Known as one of Canada’s top organic chemists, Denny received numerous awards and recognitions over his career, including UNB’s Allan P. Stuart Excellence in Teaching Award, the APICS/Northern Telecom Science Teaching Award, the Chemical Institute of Canada’s Merck Sharp & Dohme Lecture Award and the Union Carbide Award for Chemical Education. He was also elected a fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and the Royal Society of Canada. 

Denny was a well-respected scholar, who spent a great deal of his time writing scientific articles, presenting papers at various conferences and lecturing at Harvard, among other institutions. He was also associated with a number of research laboratories, including Torcan Chemicals, Delmar Chemicals and Ayerst Research Laboratories.

Friends, family and colleagues remember Denny as an optimistic, gifted research scientist who loved to teach. Well-loved by his students, Denny was a very friendly person. He was once quoted by the Daily Gleaner saying, “If you treat people right, they will treat you right.”

Denny mentored over 50 graduate students throughout his career, many of whom went on to hold academic positions. He treated all of his graduate students like family and all were welcome to visit and stay with him and his family at their cottage on Grand Lake. In 2007, UNB named a state-of-the-art chemistry lab, the Zdenek Valenta Laboratory for Synthetic Chemistry, in his honour. In his spare time, Denny loved to read and travel.

A visitation will take place on Wednesday, July 31, from 4 - 6 p.m. at McAdam’s Funeral Home. Flags will be lowered on both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses on that day. Condolences can be made online. Denny will be missed by all who knew him and our thoughts are with his family. 


Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle

President and Vice-Chancellor


Category: News and Notices

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