In Memoriam: Donald B. Aulenbach


by Anthony DeAngelo, CHP, Northeastern New York HPS Chapter President

Donald B. Aulenbach, 89, of Clifton Park, New York, died on 19 August 2017. He was an active member of the Health Physics Society (HPS) Northeastern New York Chapter since 1966.

Don was born in Berwick, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a BS in chemistry in 1950. He earned his MS and then PhD in sanitation from Rutgers University in 1954. After earning his PhD, he worked as a chemist/bacteriologist for the Delaware Water Pollution Commission. Radiation protection was part of his responsibilities before he left his position as head of water pollution in 1960 to join Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, as a professor of environmental engineering.

Don was one of my professors during my graduate studies at RPI. He and I shared a common interest in both health physics and water resources, which was a rare combination at RPI. Anyone who knew him will always remember his distinctive bow ties and infectious sense of humor. 

While I never had a chance to take a health physics course with Don, he did teach most of my hydrology and water-treatment classes. While at RPI, he authored numerous articles, led annual investigative trips with his engineering students to Lake George, and was a consultant on many projects. At the end of my class trip to Saratoga Lake, he made a point of identifying the wild watercress that was growing near the outflow from the village's sewage-treatment plant. As would be expected, one in the class mentioned a lack of interest in its consumption due to its location. Like a practiced comedian responding to the cue of a straight man, he proceeded to grab a handful of leaves and began chewing them, then offering the remainder to the rest of the class. It was not all bad . . . and I suspect that was a common ending for that trip. When I later joined our local HPS chapter, we shared many pleasant memories as we attended meetings over the years.

Don was a professional engineer and a member of the American Chemical Society, the Water Pollution Control Association, the American Water Works Association, the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. 

In addition to teaching at RPI, he served as a regional coordinator of the New York State MATHCOUNTS, a yearly math competition for middle school students. He played bass in a band well into his 80s and he sang weekly in the choir at his church. He is survived by Marie, his wife of 65 years, and four children, Louise Trakimas and her husband, Robert, of Winchester, Massachusetts; Bruce Aulenbach and his wife, Sole, of Monroe, Oregon; Nancy Baker and her husband, James, of Highland, California; and Brent Aulenbach and his wife, Nancy, of Lilburn, Georgia. He is also survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.