Cover photo for William David Gurowitz's Obituary
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1931 William 2020

William David Gurowitz

July 23, 1931 — March 3, 2020

William David Gurowitz, known to all as 'Bill', passed away on March 3, 2020, with his son by his side.

Bill was the first born son of Anna and Jack Gurowitz, who were born in Odessa and moved to the US in their early twenties. First residing in New York, where Bill was born, they moved to Gloversville, NY when he was two years old. Jack was proprietor of 'Jack's Bargain Store' and Bill was often referred to in his youth as "Little Jack Bargain." Anna and Jack were thrilled to become American citizens and pleased to have an all-American son who did well in school and who was on the high school basketball team. Bill was also a devoted older brother to Ed Gurowitz, born when he was eleven. Due to his mother's ill health, Bill was often responsible for Ed, bringing him and his stroller along when he played with the neighborhood kids.

Liking science, Bill initially thought he would go to pharmacy school, but a guidance counselor persuaded him to apply to college. He was accepted to Cornell University and graduated with a BA in chemistry in 1953. He got a scholarship to Purdue University, from which he received his PhD in organic chemistry in 1958. While in Indiana, he went to visit a Gloversville friend who was studying at Indiana University and was fixed up with a cord there, Sandra Rubinstein, a petite dynamo, who shared his values, but was the artist to his scientist, the laid-back free spirit to his careful planner personality. Sandi and Bill wed a few months after he completed his dissertation.

After two years at Wright Patterson Air Force base in Ohio, where he worked doing airplane reconnaissance, Bill and Sandi moved to the Boston suburbs where their children, Leah (Lee) and Ronald (Ron) were born. Bill worked for Dow Chemical Company as a research scientist, but when the position of Executive Director of the Cornell Chemistry Department became vacant, he applied and was thrilled to return to his alma mater. Five years later, he was named Vice President for Campus Affairs at Cornell, a job he held from for over 20 years. Bill was beloved by students and faculty alike, and tremendously enjoyed mentoring students, especially those like him who were first generation college students.

After years in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, Bill and Sandi retired to Hawaii, which they loved. Bill volunteered at the underwater nature preserve Hanauma Bay, and was active with the Hawaii Symphony volunteers. Always an athlete, Bill played pickup basketball on campus, then in Hawaii, but also ran, swam and biked regularly. The highlight of his retirement years was being a grandfather. A strict parent, Bill was a doting grandfather who reveled in his grandsons' visits and enjoyed spoiling them.

Bill firmly believed in giving back, in doing the right thing, and taking the high road. He was unfailingly polite, even in his later years as he was largely confined to a wheelchair and his memory started to fade. He was a font of fatherly advice, which was appreciated (sometimes) by his children as they grew up, and always by those he mentored. Having lived through the Depression, Bill was well-known for being careful with money, though was incredibly generous with others (especially his beloved grandsons).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the DC Family & Youth Initiative, the United Negro College Fund, or the American Cancer Society.

Arrangements are entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, WA

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William David Gurowitz, please visit our flower store.


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