Hans D. Van Etten

Hans D. Van Etten died at home on August 1, 2015, after a long battle with cancer. He was born September 16, 1941, in Peoria Illinois, to Cecil and Freeda Van Etten. Hans attended East Peoria Community High school, class of 1959, and graduated from Wabash College in 1963. He received his Ph.D. degree in Plant Pathology from Cornell University and spent his career as a professor at Cornell and the University of Arizona (1989-2015) studying how plants fight pathogens, and how pathogens fight back. Hans was preceded in death by his parents and his beloved younger brother Cecil, who passed away one year ago, leaving his wife Carol of Savoy, Illinois and sons, Craig of Herrin, Illinois and Chad (Tina) of Dublin, Ohio. Hans is also survived by his family in Tucson, daughter, Laura and wife Martha Hawes, as well as his brother, Jim (Geraldine) in Lincoln, Nebraska and Jim's son, Rob and daughters, Maria and Andrea, sister, Twila Kelly (Bowman) in Raleigh, North Carolina, daughter, Erica Marx (Chris) and her son, Kieran in Ithaca NY, and so many dear friends and colleagues around the world. Hans loved his Chicago Cubs through thick and thin, and was a big fan of Bruce Springsteen whose songs brought smiles to his last moments. Arrangements by NEPTUNE SOCIETY.




The Campus Arboretum hosted a Celebration in honor of Hans Van Etten and to express support and gratitude to his wife, Martha Hawes and daughter Laura VanEtten. The program for the March 31, 2017 event can be found here and photos taken the day of the event can be found at the bottom of this page. 


Hans taught, and brightened the lives of so many people through his rich, accomplished life and warm, generous friendship. Many have sent notes describing their feelings for this wonderful man. You might enjoy reading their words here. If you wish to add comments, please send them by email to infoarboretum@ag.arizona.edu with Hans Van Etten in the subject line.





“I am very grateful to Dr. Hans VanEtten’s promotion of our research!” Liudmila Makarova, Irkutsk, Russia (February 24, 2016)


“This is a sad news indeed. We shall pray for his soul to rest in peace!”  Ousmane Sanogo, Bamako (October 26, 2015)


“Dr. Van Etten, when I think of you I remember your infectious laughter, our annual graduate student / faculty softball games, and the Friday afternoon Plant Pathology student seminars! You will be missed. With heartfelt sympathy to Martha and family.” Michele Hoffman, Tucson, Arizona (August 20, 2015)



“Hans was such a kind person, and he was an amazing scholar, a terrific mentor, a passionate fisherman, an Arizona cowboy, and a friend to most. His cheer and enthusiasm were always infectious, and will be dearly missed. Happy trails, Hans.” Barry Pryor, Tucson, Arizona (August 10, 2015)


“Hans was one of the most remembered professors in my graduate school years at Cornell, actually of all my mentors and professors, for his approach of training graduate students, and his sense of humor. Whenever I think of my Cornell years, I think of him, annual July 4th party at his house, Plant Path Christmas party, and his farewell party before his departure to Arizona. My sincere condolece to Hans family. He truly led a celebrated life for all of us.” Ling X., Indianapolis, Indiana (August 08, 2015)


“Having reached my 90th birthday, and having known Hans for his long time at Cornell, I can truly say that Hans was one of the most heartily appreciated colleagues I have experienced. I hope his family knows what joy he has brought to scores of students at Cornell.” Richard P. Korf, Ithaca, New York (August 07, 2015)


“Martha, I'm sorry to hear of Hans passing. I truly enjoyed my visits with him on multiple occasions, especially when he'd ask about my fishing adventures. He was a wonderful person to be around. My prayers are with you and your family.”  Connie Graham, Tucson, Arizona (August 06, 2015)


“I'm very saddened by this news. Hans was one of the first professors I got to know at Cornell and he was friendly, funny and easy to be around. The first time I sledded on snow was at his house and I had a blast. Aloha oe Hans.”  Michael Shintaku, Hilo, Hawaii (August 06, 2015)


“I first knew Hans when I was a young tech at Cornell and later at Arizona. Hans demonstrated that science was fun. I always wanted to work in his lab. His enthusiasm and humanity will be missed.”  Philip Evans, Tucson, Arizona (August 06, 2015)


“I was saddened to hear of Hans' passing. I joined UA Plant Path shortly after he did. There are so many fond memories - Christmas parties, ball games, etc. He was an awesome guy and will be missed by many. I tip my cowboy hat to you…one last time.” Karen Hill-Veasey, Atlanta, Georgia (August 06, 2015)


“Dear Martha, Marc, and colleagues, Hans made this Australian feel at home in his Cornell lab, as well as outside the lab on snype-hunting excursions in Ithaca streams or other distractions which were hilarious and fun. We enjoyed his practical jokes and wonderful sense of humour. So sorry to hear this news. He encouraged me to publish our negative data because in his view it was important, and in doing so he improved my self-confidence as a young scientist. What a gem. We will miss you Hans.” Wallace Cowling, South Perth, Western Australia (August 05, 2015)


“I am saddened by Hans' passing, but as a professional colleague I will gain comfort knowing that I will be continually reminded of him through his legacy: all of my good friends who came through his lab, and the outstanding work that his research group produced, which I refer to regularly. I will remember Hans as someone who was always generous to me as a younger colleague, who was fun to talk to, not just about science but about anything, and a real person through and through. Thanks, Hans, and I'll celebrate with you when the Cubs finally pull it off.” David Geiser, State College, Pennsylvania (August 05, 2015)


“Dear Martha, I am so sorry to hear that Hans has died, but he lived well and full - and it sounds like his spirit was never beaten by his cancer and treatments. When I think of Hans, I think of scientist, fisherman, avid outdoorsman, and storyteller - and he was passionate about all four! If I ever get to Tucson I will be sure to contact you ahead of time - I would love to see you again. Sending you my warmest thoughts and empathy from my heart, with love, Marian in Iowa” (August 05, 2015)


“Hans was a great professor! Hans was my VERY first introduction to Grad School, as I was a young, naïve, grad student taking his Plant Microbiology course. The material he taught in the course was new and informative to me, and broadened my horizons in the plant pathology world. While taking his course (and even after taking his course) I really appreciated how caring and concerned Hans was for his students/Plant Pathology students. He provided me a lot of feedback in not only my schoolwork, but also about my thesis, and also with bettering myself with giving presentations and seminars. I appreciate everything he taught me in the over two years I got to know him.”  Dustin Sandberg, Tucson, Arizona (August 05, 2015)


“Sincerest condolences to Martha and the rest of Han's family. Hans touched our life in countless fun ways and definitely made it a lot richer and more amusing. It has been a great privilege and blessing to call him mentor, friend, confidante, fellow Arizona wildcat basketball junkie, and co-aficionados of Tucson desert and critters. A real maverick with a gentle soul and big heart - we tip our cowboy hats to you Hans! You will be dearly missed. Rest in peace.”  Myrna Sevilla & Tito Alcantara, Fort Myers, Florida (August 05, 2015)


“As a mentor and friend, Hans taught more than science. I thank him for teaching me leadership skills, generosity, and scientific rigor. I thank him for welcoming me into the extended Fusarium/Vanetten family.” Kevin Mccluskey, Manhattan, Kansas (August 05, 2015)


“When I think back on the many memories I have of Hans, I get a big smile on my face and start laughing as so many of them involved our shared sense of humor. I use to house sit for Hans when he and his family took vacations at Cornell. He lent me that big bruiser of a car he had so I could drive to his house and one area of contention was that car. I couldn't control its speed it had a life of its own - and that car forced me into a speeding ticket. Although the cars fault and surely not mine, Hans disagreed that he should pay the ticket and we often laughed over that incident. I helped destroy the car with Vivian Miao, if she can remember that final party! And who can forget Han's famous seminar with the California moon? The many 4th July parties, the Hans and Rusty duets? Pure joy and laughter. Thank you Hans. Love you, Nancy K.” Nancy Keller, Madison, Wisconsin (August 05, 2015)


“Hans and my mother are the two most influential human beings in my life and I shall forever be grateful to fate for letting me know him up close.He treated me as his Ph.D. student not only with amazing compassion but also let scientific ideas flow freely. He was a profound thinker and a great scientist. The key words for me when I remember him at my private memorial in his honor from now on will be, profound scientist, compassionate, brother, pterocarpan, 6a-hydroxymaackiain methyltransferase and (+)-pisatin.” Evans Kaimoyo, Lusaka (August 04, 2015)


“I am Rhodesia Celoy, the last PhD student of Hans. I just learned today of Hans passing away. And I can't believe that "this" happened too soon. We just talked over the phone few weeks ago. Though he admitted that he was very weak he still managed to crack a joke, hinting that yes he is fighting and trying to be strong. Hans was a father figure to me. Not only that he was my academic adviser, he taught be the basics of life----enjoy life in every opportunity that we can get. Even at work, I love whenever he comes by the lab and greet me with ..."There's my biochemist! How is it going?" and our chitchat will start. I also enjoyed the bets we had (over a mug of beer) about the compounds or the (+)-pisatin pathway that we tried to elucidate. Of course he is the pro... he always win! There are a lot of memories with Hans. His humor is contagious and sweet. He always wear that smile...as wide as his cowboy hat. December means riding his "Rudolph the Red Nose Big Truck" up the hill to his beautiful house. Students seminar means "seminar after the seminar". Informal baseball games between professors and staff against students and postdocs. Sponsored parties at his house, "cork-flying" contest at the 3rd Floor corrdior of Marley Building, etc... He is also so sweet that he chose a tree for us to plant in his property. That I felt so important (kindda launch breaking type). I will surely miss Hans. His legacy will be continued and the memories and learnings will be cherished. Hans is a blessing to me. Until we meet again Hans...you will always be remembered.” Rhodesia Celoy, Athens, Georgia (August 04, 2015)


“Hans was one of a kind. A wonderful mentor to young scientists, he stands as an example of the kind of scientist I strive to be. I'll miss you dearly, Asilomar will not be the same. Sending love to Martha and family. A bright light shines on in our hearts, and we will plant trees to celebrate your life.” Bridget Barker, Flagstaff, Arizona (August 04, 2015)


“My condolences on Hans' passing. My memories of him are of a very social and caring guy who was really into his research and welcoming to grad students. He was enjoyable to work around.” Elizabeth Twieg, Washington, District of Columbia (August 04, 2015)


“A great friend and colleague in fungal genetics over many years.” Michael Hynes, Melbourne, Australia (August 04, 2015)


“Dear Martha, I cannot express to you how I enjoyed knowing Hans and you. Although I would have preferred to know you both under far better circumstances, I looked forward to each and every time you were in the office. I know he is at peace now and I send you prayers of comfort in knowing that as well. He will be missed greatly. Please stop in to say hi any time. We will miss you too. Jackie who used to work the front desk at the cancer center wanted me to extend her condolences Deepest Sympathies. Margo.” Margo Reschka, Tucson, Arizona (August 04, 2015)


“Dear Martha, family and all friends, My memories of Hans are of happiness, joy, friendship, smiles. I have fond memories of all the wonderful parties in his house and one time dancing with him on top of the living room table full of flour. I keep these memories as some of the best times of my life and carrier. Marc Orbach and myself we joined Hans' lab meetings and in some way we were became part of his lab. I feel grateful to have known this incredible human being who enjoyed every second of his life; the best teacher of life. We will miss him.” Silvia Diaz-Perez, Los Angeles, California (August 04, 2015)


“I have lit a candle in his memory” Lucy Castillo, Tucson, Arizona (August 04, 2015)


“I was Hans' first PhD student, but my career tracked away from plant path, and so I have not seen him much in recent years. Arriving early for the retirement party in 2014, I stopped by the house up on the West Tucson hill, and there he was. The old man took the not very much younger former student (by odd coincidence, I turned 65 on the day I learned of his death) for a tour out back, proudly pointing out the desert plants and the animal scratchings in the sand. It was an odd feeling after so many years and so many miles--as if a wayward son had reappeared after a long journey. When I went to Cornell in 1971 and learned that my assigned advisor was a Professor Hans Van Etten, I anticipated servitude under a dour and doddering Netherlander, likely a distant cousin of Anton deBary. Hans was anything but that. Feeder of Cornell squirrels and equipped with that asymmetrical way of sliding his (dreadfully unfashionable) shoes as he walked down the hall, Hans taught me to repeat experiments not once, but twice. He made sure that I published, not only before I perished, but before I was even handed a Cornell diploma. He tried out his East Peoria grammar on me, too--that peculiar form of English that does not permit the subject and verb to agree on much of anything. It all ended almost exactly 40 years ago today, when one of those famous Van Etten parties sent me stumbling off into the outer world. Yes, I am pensive as I write these words. But I'm also smiling as I look over the long, long list of email addresses, each pointing to someone--most of whom I do not know, but whose life was touched as was mine by Hans Van Etten.” Steve Pueppke, Associate Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies Michigan State University. (August 04, 2015)