Longtime Duke faculty leader dies at 92

mcaulder@nando.comOctober 7, 2012 

— Pelham Wilder Jr., former university marshal and professor emeritus of chemistry at Duke University, died Saturday at the age of 92, according to the Duke news service.

Wilder taught at Duke for more than 50 years; he took a position with the chemistry department in 1949.

In addition to teaching chemistry at Duke, Wilder taught pharmacology in Duke’s School of Medicine from 1977 until he retired in 2000. He also served as a university marshal.

Wilder was born July 20, 1920, in Americus, Ga., and was raised in Savannah.

He received undergraduate and master’s degrees from Emory University. He also earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Wilder spent three years as a teaching fellow at Harvard before he accepted a position with Duke, where he spent the rest of his career.

“I was very young at the time. It was my first appointment and I was very excited,” Wilder said in a 1999 interview.

“Once I saw the quality of the faculty and the administration, I decided to stay. Sure, I’ve had a half-dozen opportunities to leave ... but I never saw anything to entice me.”

Wilder’s family has continuing ties to Duke.

His daughter, 1983 Duke graduate Sterly Lebey, is secretary-treasurer of Duke’s alumni association board of directors and is associate vice president of Alumni Affairs.

Wilder’s son, Pelham Wilder III, graduated from Duke in 1973.

His grandson, Pelham Wilder IV, completed an undergraduate degree in 2005 at Duke and graduated from Duke University School of Law in 2008.

Wilder served in the Navy during World War II and remained active with the Navy’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, holding several leadership roles after he left the service.

In 1993 he received the Distinguished Public Service award from the Secretary of the Navy for his efforts with the Navy ROTC.

Caulder: 919-829-4758

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