Lyman Vane Racster

October 29, 1996

By Sam Wait


Lyman Vane Racster died on September 1, 1996 in Indiana where he had resided since his retirement from Rensselaer in 1970.  He was born in Albion, Illinois on March 24, 1905.  He received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1928 and his MS in Inorganic Chemistry in 1932 also from the University of Illinois.  He had a minor in Physical Education and Coaching and coached high school sports ranging from golf and tennis to basketball and football.


From 1928 through 1942 he taught chemistry in several high schools in Illinois.  He held a Civil Service position as an instructor of radio from July through December 1942, prior to serving as a Radio Technician in the United States Navy from December 1942 to 1945 and graduated from the Navy’s Electronic Engineering School in Washington, D.C.  He taught at Clarkson College as an instructor of radio in the Department of Electrical Engineering from 1945-1946.  He joined the Rensselaer faculty as Assistant Professor of Chemistry in September 1946.


While at Rensselaer, Lyman Racster was in charge of the Freshman Chemistry Laboratory during the time that Harold Faigenbaum was still lecturing in Freshman Chemistry.  In addition, he taught courses in inorganic chemistry and inorganic chemistry laboratory.  However, perhaps his most notable activity was the creation of one of the first courses in electronic instrumentation for chemists in the country.  Generations of chemistry majors were privileged to have him teach them about electronics in the days before and after transistors.  He was never too busy to help students with special projects – I well remember going to his home with my first Heathkit AM-FM tuner that wasn’t working properly and having him diagnose my cold soldered joints and helping me to repair it.  He also was an avid photographer and had a well equipped darkroom in his home.


For a number of years prior to his retirement, he was the principal advisor and degree clearance officer for all chemistry majors.  He spent many hours with students and was more than willing to help them plan schedules.  I missed the fall semester of my sophomore year with an eye surgery, and he worked hard to make sure that I could take overloads and attend summer school so that I could graduate on time.  He was not above cutting corners and bending rules when it was to the students’ benefit.


We were fortunate to have him as a colleague during his years at Rensselaer.  The faculty mourns his passing.  He has no family except a nephew and I request a copy of this be placed in the minutes and sent to his nephew.


Lon R. Racster

Attorney at Law

121 W. High Street

PO Box 806

Portland, IN 47371