Sheldon Buckler Gives Back


Dr. Sheldon Buckler (center) with his wife, Dorothea, and Prof. Colin Nuckolls. Photo by Michael DiVito.

November 4 was an especially memorable homecoming for Dr. Sheldon Buckler (’54GSAS, Chemistry). Buckler returned to Columbia with his wife, Dorothea, for a lunch celebrating their $3 million gift to establish and endow the Sheldon and Dorothea Buckler Professorship in Material Science in the Department of Chemistry, with Prof. Colin Nuckolls as the inaugural holder of the chair.

“It was a very emotional moment for me. Columbia contributed a lot to the success I had,” said Buckler, who lives in Massachusetts and retired two years ago after an accomplished career in basic chemical research, technology-based innovation, and business development.

At the lunch, held in the library of the Italian Academy, Buckler shared colorful stories about his unlikely path to Columbia. The child of Polish immigrants, he grew up in a large, mostly Yiddish-speaking family that was “not education oriented.” (Only two of twenty-four cousins attended college.) He argued his way past the examination requirements for admission to New York’s elite Stuyvesant High School, and it was there that he developed an interest in chemistry, which he went on to study as an undergraduate at NYU.

His doctoral studies at Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he said, were enriched beyond measure by the people he encountered there, in particular Prof. Gilbert Stork and Prof. Ronald Breslow, who remain on the faculty of the Department of Chemistry. Buckler reconnected with Breslow at the lunch.

“The people I met in the Chemistry Department raised my sense of what was possible in the world,” said Buckler. “This was a thank you, a gift from my heart, that expresses how much I appreciate what Columbia did for me.”