Remembering Our Friend and Colleague Henry Gholz

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Henry Gholz


Dr. Henry Gholz, a former Program Director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) died on Saturday, September 30, 2017 while rock climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park. He was a wonderful friend and revered colleague to many at NSF and in the ecology research community.

Henry received B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Forest Science & Ecology from Oregon State University. He then joined the faculty of the University of Florida, where he worked for twenty-two years, becoming a leader in research on the ecology of forest ecosystems.  Henry joined DEB as a Program Director in 2000, and beginning in 2002 he led the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites program for a ten-year period.  He was recognized with a standing ovation, and was presented with a special plaque for his service at the 2012 LTER All Scientists Meeting ( Following a 1-year sabbatical, Henry returned to DEB as a Program Director in the Ecosystem Science Cluster, and for the Macrosystems Biology program in Emerging Frontiers until his retirement last year.

While at NSF, Henry was known as an enthusiastic and collaborative advocate for ecology, who worked tirelessly to create new opportunities for the environmental biology research community. He made many friends during his sixteen years at the NSF as a result of his warm and caring personality.  Following retirement from NSF, Henry lived with his wife, Dr. Jan Engert, in Ft. Collins, CO.  At the time of his death, he was serving as a Visiting Scientist at Batelle Ecology, working with the National Ecological Observatory Network.  Henry is survived by his wife Jan, his children Nate, Sophie, and Sean, and several grandchildren.

The above is just a brief of sketch of a leading scientist and wonderful individual who impacted many people’s lives. With that in mind, we invite Henry’s many friends and colleagues to offer your thoughts and memories of him in response to this blog post.

12 thoughts on “Remembering Our Friend and Colleague Henry Gholz

  1. Henry was a wonderful mentor and friend, as I developed as a scientist and during my time at DEB. I really came to appreciate the depth of his contributions to science, and as voice of reason and as an advocate for ecosystem science within NSF and across other agencies when I was at DEB. He was always willing to share his perspective and a glass of wine. It is hard to write these words using the past tense.

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute! I met Henry when I was a graduate student 20 years ago during the beginnings of Ameriflux. It’s hard to describe the enormous impact he had on me and many others over the years. He made his own seminal contributions to the field, and was also a tireless advocate for ecosystem science and LTER. He made such a huge effort to get to know everyone and everything going on in the field and always seemed to know what we were all up to! He was passionate about DEB and recruited so many people to serve there, including myself. And he made it such a pleasure to work there. Truly, there are few scientists who have touched so many all around the country and around the world. Besides all this he was just a delightful person to be around, and he will be so deeply missed. He will always be an inspiration to me for the rest of my career.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of the terrible passing of Henry. I did not know him well but I know many at DEB worked with him for a long time. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at NSF. In my few face-to-face meetings with Henry he wanted me to be sure to remember that work can be fun – even government work. I think he would be happy to know his colleagues in DEB would always remember him as someone who brought a positive vibe and camaraderie to the workplace.

  4. This is very nice. Thank you. I am Henry’s former wife and was his unpaid research assistant during his tenure at Oregon State, traveling the various ecosystems of the state from coast to high elevation desert. On behalf of our children, I thank you for this wonderful memorial.

  5. Henry was a wonderful scientist and mentor. He showed a remarkable and treasured ability to integrate scientific rigor with tremendous kindness. His loss cuts deeply – he will be missed.

  6. Henry was a tireless servant of the ecological community during his tenure at NSF. Many scientists, including me, have benefitted from his stewardship of the peer-review and panel process. The job has its challenges–limited funds, grumpy PIs, begging for ad-hoc reviews–but Henry understood the goal of facilitating the best science and creating opportunities for new investigators. When he told me he was retiring, it was bittersweet because I knew the NSF enterprise would miss him, but I knew he had earned it. What a shame that his retirement was so short. If there is any consolation, he died outdoors in a beautiful place doing something he loved. We will miss you, Henry.

  7. It’s hard to believe Henry is no longer with us. I had the privilege and opportunity to work with him at the NSF for many years. When I was at the LTER network office in New Mexico, Henry was very supportive of all the education activities that we were engaged in. We became friends. He was very proud of his children and encouraged them to pursuit their wishes whatever they were. He was one of my favorite NSF program officers: dedicated, kind and honest. He always had time for me when I stopped by his office. He was traveling in Europe in early September with his wife and friends. We tried to visit each other and couldn’t coordinate our travel schedules. I deeply regret that we’ll no longer see each other again. My condolences to his family.

  8. It was a joy to know Henry. He and I met on an NSF panel early in our career and it has been one of the pleasures of my career to serve as a panel or LTER review committee member under him. When the panel became stuck on some proposal, Henry had a great knack for stepping in and gently resolving the issue. He raised being a program officer to an art form. He and I became good friends over the years, even though we might see each other only a few times a year. Funny how this happens with friends sometimes. Last winter, Henry was travelling through Minnesota visiting his family and stayed with us for a few days. We had Bob and Joan Sterner over for dinner with Henry on a typical winter evening in Minnesota – fire in the fireplace, great food and wine, and a wonderful evening with friends, all the things Henry loved. It will be strange not to see Henry at ESA anymore. There is a big hole in the ecological community now and its name is Henry Gholz.

  9. Henry had a positive impact on so many people’s scientific career. He showed that NSF can be supportive of early-career faculty, because he was aware of career stage in his funding decisions. He was also a happy presence at ESA and LTER meetings, which he stayed active with even after he retired (perhaps becoming even more of a happy presence with his floral shirts and long hair… it seemed he was loving life after retirement!). I will miss seeing him there.

  10. Henry was a wonderful friend to many people and an ardent supporter of ecosystem science, ecology, and long-term research. He did a lot for SEEDS, the Ecological Society of America’s education program aimed at increasing diversity in our field, including working hard to find ways for NSF to continue to support the program’s work. I first got to know Henry well as a LTER PI, where he was tremendously supportive and helpful, and then later as a colleague at NSF, where he again was a font of knowledge and a terrific mentor. He was a strong advocate for women and early-career scientists, collaborative and long-term research, and the ecosystems program. Henry shared my DC house for a year while he was building his own castle in Fort Collins, where we had many good chats (usually over wine) about ecology, family, life…. I can’t believe he’s gone. It is such a terrible loss. To Jan, Sean, the rest of Henry’s family, and his many friends I offer my deepest condolences. I will miss Henry, as I know we all will, and cherish the memories I have of him.

  11. I only got to know Henry during the last 6 years. I would say I was kind of a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to NSF-level science, but Henry never made me feel inadequate. Henry was always supportive, always encouraging, and always putting things in the ‘big picture’. Henry also incredibly open. Early on in my dealings with NSF, I mentioned that a family issue was taking up much of my time. Instead of dismissing it, Henry shared one of his struggles. Henry was a brilliant scientist, but also was so much more. He lived life to its fullest, and demonstrated that life was meant to be lived and enjoyed. He will be missed.

  12. Thanks for the tribute. Henry was a broad thinker full of positivism and encouragement and has influenced my career and that of others with his contributions and at length conversations. Intellectually curious and with an adventurous mind, he was a perfect fit for NSF ecosystem science and LTER programs. He always offered words of wisdom on proposal ideas and on grantsmanship strategies to young and established scientists alike. Stopping his retirement to help NEON get off the ground is a testament to his service to the ecological community. He will be very missed.

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