George W. Flynn, Jr.

Personal obituary: George William Flynn, Jr, 81, of Charlotte, NC, passed away on Wednesday, January 8, 2020. He was born in Hartford, CT on July 11, 1938 to George William Flynn, Sr. and Rose (Tummillo) Flynn.

George grew up in working-class Hartford and earned a full scholarship to Yale where he studied chemistry, followed by a graduate degree and post-doctoral training at Harvard and MIT, respectively. He became a full professor at Columbia, where he worked for over 48 years before retiring in 2015. A beloved teacher and respected researcher, George made significant contributions to science in multiple areas of chemistry, winning numerous teaching and research awards, and earning membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

George met and married the love of his life, Jean Pieri Flynn, in 1970 and they raised two children in the suburbs of New York City, where they lived until their retirement and relocation to Charlotte in 2015.

George is survived by his wife, Jean Pieri Flynn; his children David Flynn and Suzanne Speece; his daughter-in-law Debbie Rubenstein; his son-in-law Jack Speece; cherished grandchildren Samantha, Rachel, Addison and Tyler, who brought him tremendous joy during his life; and his brother Ken Flynn.

A funeral service was held at 1pm on Thursday, January 23 at St. Matthew Church in Ballantyne. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in George’s name to Hospice or to the Yale College Alumni Fund – Financial Aid for scholarships to allow students with financial need to attend Yale.

Professional obituary: FLYNN — George. Higgins Prof of Chemistry and Prof of Chemical Engineering at Columbia University died on January 8, 2020 in Charlotte, NC. Flynn was born in Hartford, CT, in 1938. He earned his BA from Yale and his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard. He was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. Flynn joined the Columbia faculty in 1967. He was a pioneer in the use of lasers to probe molecular dynamics in gases and liquids and in the use of Scanning Tunneling Microscopy to study the structure of solid surfaces and the properties of graphene. He made a deep impact on Columbia through his service as Chair of the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Departments and Director of EMSI, and as an extraordinary mentor to all students – including the many who have gone on to notable research careers as university professors. He was the recipient of many honors, including the prestigious Mark Van Doren Teaching Prize for the excellence of his teaching in Freshman Chemistry; the Herbert P. Broida Prize in Chemical Physics given by the American Physical Society (APS); and both the E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy, and the Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics given by the American Chemical Society (ACS); his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Sciences. Flynn was a scholar and a gentleman universally respected for his wisdom and sage advice by his colleagues and collaborators. George’s passing is a huge loss to the Department of Chemistry and Columbia University. He is survived by his loving family – his wife Jean, their children David and Suzanne, their grandchildren, and George’s brother Ken Flynn.

Published in The New York Times on Jan. 26, 2020