Beloved chemistry professor emeritus passes away

Vanderbilt remembers an esteemed member of its community.

Professor Emeritus David Tuleen

Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus David Tuleen passed away on Aug. 16 at the age of 83. (Vanderbilt University)

Henry Ridley

Vanderbilt’s Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus David Tuleen passed away in his home on Aug. 16 at the age of 83.

Tuleen is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jean.

Born in 1936, Tuleen grew up in Illinois, later attending Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH and receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1958. He then graduated from the University of Illinois in 1962 with a doctoral degree in Chemistry. He began working at Vanderbilt in 1963.

Tuleen held many positions during his tenure at Vanderbilt. He began as an undergraduate professor of chemistry and then became Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Science in 1974. Tuleen later became Associate Provost in 1992, and ultimately served as Special Assistant to the Provost in 2003.

Tuleen was widely appreciated by both students and faculty for his lively teaching style of a challenging courses and for his sense of humor. In 2006, Tuleen was awarded the title of professor emeritus, retiring at the age of 69.

Throughout his career, he published many papers and was the recipient of many honors including Vanderbilt’s own Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. One of his papers, “Chlorination of Unsymmetrical Sulfides,” has been used as a premier academic source over 100 times in other papers.

Tuleen didn’t just impact the Vanderbilt community. He also contributed to Nashville through his attendance of the First Lutheran Church and his roles in the church’s service organizations including the Pastoral Counseling Center. He also performed in the Nashville Symphony Chorus.

Tuleen will be remembered by the Vanderbilt community as a knowledgeable and gifted chemist, teacher and colleague. 

“He was an exceptional colleague who always acted with the best interests of the university in mind,” professor of economics George Sweeney said. “His superb sense of humor could evoke a chuckle in almost any meeting.”

Department of Chemistry Chairman John McLean said that Tuleen’s memorial resolution will be read at the November faculty meeting in the College of Arts and Science.

“He was a renowned chemist and also a renowned administrator,” McLean said.