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In memoriam: Alumnus Newman Bortnick, Ph.D., 1921-2015

Alumnus Newman “Newmie” Bortnick, Ph.D., died on Monday, April 20 (1921-2015), after a short illness. He was 93 years old. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1941, and his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1944 from the University of Minnesota. In 2000, he received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota for his exemplary commitment and service to the university and his profession.

He spent his entire career as a research chemist (1944-1990) with Rohm and Haas Company in the Philadelphia area and remained an active consultant after his retirement. His professional contributions led to the discovery, development and manufacturing of plastics, which we see and use every day such as polymeric resins used in paints, coatings, and clear plastics known as Plexiglas. His discovery of Primene tertiary alkyl-primary amines has been on the market for nearly 50 years. In addition to his professional contributions, Dr. Bortnick served on numerous boards and societies. His service as a volunteer statesman of the American Chemical Society spanned 44 years.  

Donations in his honor can be made to the Newman and Lillian Bornick Fellowship Fund (#1373)

Below is his obituary that was published in the Montgomery Newspapers on May 3, 2015.

Dr. Newman “Newmie” Bortnick, 93, of Oreland, Pennsylvania, and of Sarasota, Florida, died at Cathedral Village, Andorra, Pennsylvania, on April 20, 2015, after a short illness. He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 14, 1921, the son of Emily and Louis Bortnick. His wife of nearly 70 years, Lillian Bortnick predeceased him in 2012. He was the older of two siblings. His sister, Miriam Seltzer of Minneapolis, Minnesota, predeceased him in 1999. Beloved survivors include one son, Karl Bortnick, of Philadelphia, PA, and two daughters, Lynn Bergman, of Keene, NH, and Wendy Lefkowich of Delmar, NY. In addition, he is survived by six grandchildren: Anna Bortnick Gee of New York City, NY, Alexandra Bortnick of San Diego, CA, Erica Forest of Tarrytown, NY, Deborah Gonzalez of Los Angeles, CA, Sarah Lefkowich of Philadelphia, PA and David Lefkowich of New York City, NY. He is also survived by three great-grandchildren, Julie Forest and Carter and Raquel Gee, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Dr. Bortnick was a graduate of the University of Minnesota, from which he earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the age of 19 and his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the age of 22. From 1941-43 he held the Sharp Dohme Teaching Fellowship. Following his graduation, Dr. Bortnick was employed for 67 years by Rohm and Haas Company of Philadelphia and for two years the Rohm and Haas division of Dow Chemical Company, starting as a Research Chemist and eventually rising to the position of Corporate Research Fellow, the highest scientific rank in the company. Dr. Bortnick remained a consultant to the company until he was 89 years old. During his long and prolific career, Dr. Bortnick authored over 100 patents, the last obtained in 2013. He also published many research articles in various scientific journals.

From 1941 until his death, Dr. Bortnick was an extremely active member of the American Chemical Society. He held numerous positions within the ACS, including Director-at-Large from 1983-88 and Chairman of the Chemical Abstracts Board. He was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and a lifetime member of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. In 2000, he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota. According to the University “his professional contributions led to the discovery, development, and manufacturing of plastic which we see and use every day such as polymeric resins used in paints, coatings and clear plastics known as Plexiglas.”

In addition to his significant contributions to science, Dr. Bortnick also was actively involved in the civic life of Springfield Township and an avid supporter of the arts. He was a member of the Springfield Township Planning Commission, helped establish the Free Library of Springfield Township and served on its board, was a founder and original member of the Oreland Swim club, and for six years served on the School Board of Springfield Township. He was also on the board of directors of the Carson Valley School for over 35 years. He and his wife established the Newman and Lillian Bortnick Chemistry Undergraduate Scholarship Fund at the University of Minnesota. In addition to these activities, Dr. Bortnick and his wife had season tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra for over 60 years and contributed philanthropically to that organization, as well as many other theatre, music, and arts organizations in Philadelphia, Sarasota, and elsewhere. His philanthropy extended to other scientific, social service and civic organizations whose missions mirrored his belief in fostering a just and better society.

Dr. Bortnick will be remembered not just for his significant contributions to science, his civic engagement, and his love of the arts, but also for his love of adventure and family. He and his wife traveled extensively in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Canada, and Latin America, collecting art from each place they visited. On many of his international trips, he brought his children and grandchildren, including a trip to Israel in 1987. Dr. Bortnick and his wife also loved Cape Cod, and for 25 years they rented cottages in Wellfleet so that their entire family could vacation together. Many of those days, Dr. Bortnick could be spotted taking his daily, long swim in the ocean or doing The New York Times crossword puzzle with his wife. Dr. Bortnick believed in a life of work and play. In all of his numerous activities, he was enthusiastic and focused, warmly engaged and energetic.

In keeping with his strong commitment to science, Dr. Bortnick donated his remains to medical science. A memorial service to honor him will be announced later. Donations in his honor can be made to the Newman and Lillian Bornick Fellowship Fund (#1373), or to the Carson Valley Children’s Aid, or to the Philadelphia Orchestra.