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Yaghi named first holder of Tretter chair

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March 9, 2012

Chemistry professor Omar Yaghi
Chemistry professor Omar Yaghi

Berkeley chemistry professor Omar Yaghi, 46, one of the world’s most cited chemists, has been named the first holder of the James and Neeltje Tretter Endowed Chair in Chemistry.

In addition to his professorship in the College of Chemistry, Yaghi is also the new director of the Molecular Foundry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). His appointment was effective January 3, 2012. The Molecular Foundry is a U.S. Department of Energy nanoscience research center. Yaghi comes to Berkeley from UCLA, where he was the Jean Stone Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology.

Yaghi’s inventions include metal organic frameworks (MOFs), the crystalline storage vessels touted for their capacity to capture and contain carbon dioxide and other gases, and reticular chemistry, the technique for stitching together individual molecules into predetermined structures.

The Tretter chair is funded through a gift of $1 million from James (Ph.D. ’60, Chem) and his spouse Neeltje (Nelly) Tretter. The gift was matched by a contribution from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Jim Tretter received his Ph.D. with Henry Rapoport and was a major contributor to the Rapoport Endowed Chair in Organic Chemistry. He has had a distinguished career in the pharmaceutical industry, directing research efforts at Pfizer, Rorer and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer and serving as CEO and President of IXSYS Inc., a privately held biotech company in San Diego.

Nelly Tretter was born and educated in the Netherlands. She worked for the Belgian consulate and an international project development firm, where she applied her fluency in English, French, German and Dutch.

Following Jim’s retirement in 1994, the couple moved to Pt. Townsend, WA, where they painstakingly renovated an 1887 Victorian home. As active community volunteers, they managed the distribution network for the Jefferson County Food Bank Association for several years.

When the couple made their initial pledge, Jim Tretter stated, “I hope this will act as a stimulus to bring forth other donors in support of at least three more chairs in the College of Chemistry.”

With the completion of the pledge drive for the chair honoring former College of Chemistry Dean Jud King, the Tretters’ wish has been fulfilled. In order of establishment, the four chairs are The James and Neeltje Tretter Endowed Chair in Chemistry, The Dow Chair in Sustainable Chemistry, The Lieselotte and David Templeton Endowed Chair in Chemistry and The C. Judson King Endowed Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

More Information

Omar Yaghi Faculty webpage: