In memory: Oren P. Anderson

Oren P. Anderson, Ph.D., passed away peacefully at his home in Ft. Collins, on Oct.11, after a 30-month battle against acute myeloid leukemia. Oren was 80 years young.

Born in Iowa City, Iowa, on June 19, 1942, to Rangnar “Andy” G.W. Anderson and Arlene N. Anderson (Nellor), Oren was the older brother of Owen Anderson. Oren attended the Sioux City Public Schools, where he established himself as an accomplished scientist, mathematician, and voracious reader. His lifelong love of music as a pianist, trombonist, saxophonist and guitarist began and flourished during these foundational years.

After graduating from East High (1960), Oren attended Carleton College, where he majored in chemistry as part of their honors program. At Carleton, Oren met his friends of over 60 years, Gerhard “Ger” Nowack, William “Bill” Libby, and Craig Dean. Oren graduated from Carleton in 1964 and immediately entered doctoral studies at Northwestern University, where his research interests focused on physical and inorganic chemistry. At Northwestern, Oren met the love of his life, Jennifer E. L. Anderson (Bates), and, after a 9-month courtship, they married on March 20, 1967.

After Oren graduated in May 1968 with his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, he and Jennifer embarked to Bergen, Norway, where Oren was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bergen. Oren and Jennifer taught themselves Norwegian and discovered their love of cross-country skiing, hiking, fishing, and enjoying seafood during their two years in Norway. It was also in Bergen that their oldest son, Craig R. Anderson, was born.

In 1970, Oren and his young family moved to Leicester, England, where he continued his research studies at the University of Leicester. He was a proud member of the Royal Chemical Society. During these years, Oren drew close to Jennifer’s English family and enjoyed English ales, English history, and hiking in the Peak District and Norfolk Coast. Oren also became a fan of English football (soccer), and his stories of watching Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Norwich City, and Tottenham Hotspur games are legendary. In 1972, Oren and his family left England to become a faculty member and continue his research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Oren’s youngest son, Neil O. Anderson, was born in Ann Arbor in 1973. In 1974, Oren, Jennifer, Craig, and Neil made their final move to Ft. Collins after Oren accepted a tenure track faculty position in the Department of Chemistry at Colorado State University.

Oren loved his research, but he loved teaching even more. During his 37-year career at CSU, Oren insisted on teaching freshman general chemistry in addition to honors chemistry and inorganic chemistry while guiding many graduate students in obtaining their master’s and doctoral degrees.

During his tenure at CSU, Oren published research articles focusing on small and macromolecular structures with particular emphasis on protein crystallography. In doing so, Oren became known as a pioneer in this field of chemistry, leading him to present at conferences across the United States and internationally. Former students have called Oren “the first and greatest ‘old master'” while praising his ability to be an influential chemist and a humble and thoughtful mentor. Oren also served as department chair for ten years where he successfully expanded the chemistry building, guided the department to a top-10 national standing, and championed the development of Yates Hall. However, of Oren’s accomplishments in higher education and academia, he was most proud of receiving the award for Teacher of the Year & Outstanding Graduate Faculty Instructor, as voted on by students, and the Pennock Award honoring his service and dedication to CSU.

Oren’s passions for teaching and CSU were evident in a 2016 interview when he said, “I always used to remind people that there are really only three things that matter: the students, the faculty, and the library. Everything else is spinning off of that.”

As a father, Oren patiently and consistently introduced Craig and Neil to his love of the Colorado outdoors. As a family, they hiked throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, picnicked along the Poudre River, learned to ski (alpine and cross-country), camped along mountain lakes, and learned to fly fish on the Poudre and North Platte. Oren also became an avid cyclist, where he enjoyed the Poudre River Trail and the roads around Horsetooth Reservoir, Lory State Park, and northern Colorado, culminating in Oren proudly completing 10 consecutive Ride the Rockies with his good friends Steve Reid and Ray Bailey. Oren’s love of travel allowed him to remain connected with Jennifer’s English family and his Norwegian and Australian friends. He enjoyed many trips to his uncle’s farm in Iowa and the northern lakes of Minnesota. He championed his sons’ interests and activities, never missing an event or opportunity to celebrate Craig or Neil’s efforts academically, musically, or athletically throughout their Poudre R1 education and their collegiate experiences at St. Olaf College.

In 1996, Craig married Sara Flint, and in 1998, Neil married Martha Pederson. As a father-in-law, Oren was a constant steady presence celebrating the careers and milestones of their lives. He eagerly engaged in conversations about books, collaborated on crossword puzzles, recapped television series, was a fierce game player, and shared articles of interest with them all. When the grandchildren arrived, beginning with Claire (1999), and followed by Catherine (2004), Leif (2005), and Sina (2010), Oren was ever-present. He never missed a grandchild’s birthday, significant event, or holiday festival, and made it a priority to acknowledge their effort and the efforts of those around them. Ever observant and patient, “Grandpa” and “Baba-O,” as he was known to his grandchildren, would be found reading, creating music, playing, and supporting all their interests. Oren was always ready to lend a hand, offer guidance, give a hug, and celebrate milestones. He was exceedingly proud of each grandchild and who they were as individuals and loved to be present in their lives.

Oren retired from CSU in 2011 and filled his post-career years traveling with Jennifer to Oregon, Hawai’i, Japan, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, England, France, Italy, Israel, and Jordan. Oren stayed engaged at CSU by serving on multiple committees, including the Faculty Benefits and the Retired Faculty and Admin Professionals Committees. He also served his community on various local governing boards. Oren actively participated in two local book clubs and one at Carleton College, attended Ft. Collins Symphony concerts and the OpenStage Theater, started playing the piano again, took organ lessons, served terms on his neighborhood committee, and enjoyed fine wine and food with friends.

Unfortunately, Oren was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in March 2020, but, true to Oren’s spirit, he tackled his cancer by educating himself on the science and treatment plans. Though the treatment took a toll on his energy, Oren maintained his various community commitments and attended the grandchildren’s events even when they were virtual due to the pandemic. In partnership with his team of doctors and with the compassionate care from Jennifer, Oren became the longest-living person with his AML mutations, and he took great pride in being patient #1 in various clinical research trials. He hoped to further scientific research through his efforts so others may overcome their AML diagnosis.

Oren’s spirit and lasting legacy will be with those that knew him. His impact has been felt locally, across the United States, and internationally. Oren was a loving husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle, and dear friend and mentor to those who knew him. He will be missed but never forgotten.

Oren is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jennifer E. L. Anderson, his two sons Craig (Sara) and Neil (Martha), and his four grandchildren, Claire, Catherine, Leif, and Sina. A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, at Trinity Lutheran Church. The service will also be streamed online:

The family has established the Oren P. Anderson Memorial Fund so that his legacy can continue throughout the community. The family would ask that you send contributions made payable to the “Oren P. Anderson Memorial Account” and mailed to Elevations Credit Union, PO Box 9004, Boulder, CO 80301.