In memory: David E. Fahrney

David E. Fahrney was born in Nebraska in 1934, he passed away on April 14 at his home. He is preceded in death by his wife, Eileen, who died in 2013.

His young life was filled with many medical issues which kept him at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital for long periods of time. Dave would often tell of his lung issues and that he was one of the first civilians to receive penicillin, which saved his life. Dave earned a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Reed College in Oregon and then served two years in the Army. He went on to study biochemistry at Columbia University and earned his Ph.D. in the late 1950s.

Dave developed a widely used irreversible inhibitor of esterases, PMSF, also known also as “Fahrney’s Reagent.” In 1964, Dave was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at UCLA where he continued research on enzyme mechanisms. He married his wife, Eileen, in the late 1960s. In 1970, they moved to Fort Collins, where Dave was hired as an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry. He continued research on enzyme mechanisms but also expanded work into metabolism of mycoplasma and thermophilic archaea, the organisms that can live at extreme temperatures. However, during his last 20 years at CSU Dave devoted most of his time to teaching. He taught most of the first-year graduate courses in both structural biochemistry and metabolism, excelling as an instructor in each area. Dave had a great influence on many of his contemporary faculty members in helping them to develop effective teaching styles and showing them how to engage students in course material. Dave was a gifted teacher who inspired several generations of students. Among Dave’s most lasting contributions to instruction in biochemistry was his development of Interactive Tutorials, for visualization of biochemical structures in a pseudo 3D mode which became widely available. The tutorials have been downloaded freely over 20,000 times from locations around the world, meaning that Dave’s legacy in teaching will live on for another generation and will impact students around the globe.

Outside of the university life, Dave was passionate about excelling in any activity in which he engaged. He became a competitive skier when he came to Colorado and won the top award for competition in his age group that required participation in tournaments around several ski areas in Colorado. Dave won several rifle marksmanship trophies, and he also took up bow hunting and bagged an elk. Eileen, his wife of many years, was a wonderful photographer and Dave took up this hobby with her and became passionate about it after her death. He traveled all over the world on photographic tours with a group of professional photographers who critiqued each other’s work, and he visited the arctic for polar bear pictures, several trips to Africa for both land and air safari photos, Central and South America for birds, and took many trips around the US, especially to Utah, Yellowstone, New Mexico, and Arizona, for desert landscapes, rock formations, and night skies. He also visited Venice for the Carnivale, capturing lovely costumes worn by professional performers.

Dave was well loved by his friends, colleagues, and neighbors. He had an effusive manner and attracted many people with his friendliness and easy smile. He was well loved by his students and the university and will be missed dearly. Dave did not ask for anything, but he did believe strongly in education and therefore set up a biochemistry scholarship trust fund for CSU students at Edward Jones. If so inclined, donations can be sent to the David E. Fahrney Trust at Edward Jones C/O Amanda Cook 2900 S. College, Suite 3B, Fort Collins, CO 80525.