Skip to main content

Remembering Kenneth Hanck

The Department of Chemistry remembers and mourns Professor Kenneth W. Hanck, a remarkable teacher, researcher, and department head.

The Early Stages of his Life and Professional Journey in Education

Kenneth Hanck teaching in black and white
Kenneth Hanck in the classroom in Black and White

Dr. Kenneth William Hanck was born on December 6, 1942, just outside of Bloomington-Normal Illinois.

He passed away on Thursday, November 28, 2019, and is survived by his wife of nearly 33 years, Jane; three children, Melissa, Terrance, and William; grandchildren, Alec, Nathan, and Joshua; and great-grandson, Jackson.

Dr. Kenneth Hanck graduated from Normal Community High School in 1960. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Illinois State University in 1964 and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1969 where he worked in molten salt electrochemistry for Dr. Herbert A. Laitinen.

He joined the Department of Chemistry at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 1969 as Assistant Professor, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1974, and attained the rank of Professor in 1978. His scholarly interests included electroanalytical chemistry and chemometrics. In addition to supervising research with graduate students at NCSU, he developed research collaborations with chemists in Romania, Japan, and Australia. He was awarded a Senior Fullbright Scholarship to Australia in 1980 and spent 1 month engaged in collaborative research and teaching at most of the major universities in Australia.

Remembered by his Colleagues

Kenneth Hanck

By Edmond Bowden, Professor Emeritus

Professor Ken Hanck was a seminal figure in the modern history of the Department of Chemistry beginning with the long overdue establishment of a doctoral graduate program in the late 1960’s along with a new chemistry building, Dabney Hall.  Ken, who began his 44-year career at NC State in 1969 as an assistant professor, would prove to have an extraordinary impact on the subsequent development of the department.  During a critical 10-year stint as Department Head from 1982-92, Ken provided the requisite leadership to significantly advance teaching and research in the department while building a rock-solid foundation that made possible the subsequent success of the department realized in the 1990s and into the 21st century.  Later, he served a second critical stint as Head.   As a leader and a colleague, Ken was highly supportive of faculty and staff and could always be counted on to be fair-minded, thoughtful, professional, and unflappable.   He was invested in the success of faculty, staff, and students.  For Ken, the welfare of the department and its citizens was always paramount in his mind.  Ken also had a strong and detailed grasp of financial and budgetary matters and was a leader in organizing and automating these processes.   He had an equally strong grasp of facilities and infrastructure and oversaw the renovation of much of the space in Dabney and Cox Hall as well as the construction of Fox Hall and Partners III.  Ken was very early in recognizing the overwhelming impact that personal computing would come to have on all aspects of the academic enterprise.   In addition to modernizing the operations of the Business Office, he created computer software and hardware staff positions and implemented one of the first email servers on campus ( 

Ken obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois with Herbert Laitinen, one of the leading figures in the field of analytical chemistry in the 20th century.  His research interests were in the area of electrochemistry, chemometrics, electronics, and laboratory automation.   He had an enormously productive longstanding collaboration with Dennis Wertz and Keith DeArmond concerning the electrochemistry and photochemistry of transition metal complexes.   This collaboration led to a number of highly cited and impactful articles.   One memorable example is this 1984 article on mixed ligand ruthenium bipyridine species, in which cyclic voltammograms exhibiting up to a record 8(!) reversible 1-electron waves were demonstrated.  In his later years of research and teaching, Ken became very interested in chemometrics, again ahead of his time.  At one time a niche topic, chemometrics is now employed as a routine tool by chemists in many different fields.    Ken developed an influential chemometrics graduate course, CH 711, which benefited countless NC State analytical students over many years. 

I have a particular personal and professional connection to Ken Hanck, in that I was one of the first two junior faculty that he hired (in 1984).  The fact that Ken and I were both analytical chemists and electrochemists only strengthened our connection over the years.   I will be forever grateful to Ken’s friendship and support and the opportunities that he provided to me, which contributed mightily to whatever measure of success I have had in my career.   The support, leadership, and friendship that he provided over four and a half decades to the Department of Chemistry and its faculty, staff, and students will always be remembered and cherished. 

By Jerry Whitten, Professor Emeritus

Ken Hanck was Head of Chemistry when I moved to NC State as Dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (now College of Sciences). Ken had served as head several terms and had helped create a department known for its excellent teaching at all levels and for prominent research programs in several areas. The department was poised to move to a broader array of graduate research programs and both Ken and I were eager to get started. I soon learned that the department had interesting members, individually, and one-on-one quite likeable, but hardly gentle souls and collectively quite challenging.

Ken had for several years found ways to keep different factions moving in a constructive direction. He and a number of colleagues were critical in holding the department together. There were several outstanding teachers in the department who were consistently mentioned by students as having made a big difference in their time at NC State. The department was recognized for its excellent teaching and several of our graduates were employed locally and could be counted on later to speak in favor of the department. The department also had a few exceptional individual research collaborations with Burroughs Wellcome and Glaxo pharmaceutical companies in the Research Triangle. Both companies showed interest in joining our effort to advance the department and each really got things moving by creating two one-million dollar chair endowments and graduate fellowships for the department. Ken Hanck and Cynthia Ball deserve credit for laying the foundations for these initiatives. Later Ken graciously enabled the transition to a new department head, Janet Osteryoung. He provided leadership during a critical period in the development of the department and could always be counted on to put the good of the university first.

For his many contributions, we are very much in his debt.

By Carl Bumgardner, Professor Emeritus

We all benefited from Ken’s contribution to development of the chemistry department’s physical plant and facilities.

Kenneth Hanck in Black and White sitting at his desk

By Maria Oliver-Hoyo, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Sciences

Ken Hanck took colleagues’ success to heart whether he was in a position of leadership or not. He was instrumental in securing start-up funds for many of us and was unconditionnally supportive of initiatives we embarked on.

Honored for his Service

In 2013, the Department of Chemistry honored assistant head professor Kenneth W. Hanck for his 43 years of service to the university by dedicating the Dabney 210 conference room in his name.

Dabney 210 in Black and White
Dabney 210 – Kenneth Hanck Conference Room