Service Award – Reunion 2003

For Ely Gonick, a Drew education has helped him build bridges between the worlds of science and the humanities.

In 1941, Ely was a high-school graduate in the rural community of Walden, New York, working to earn money for college, when Drew offered him a four-year scholarship.  War intervened after his first year, but the Navy brought him right back to Drew for a year in the V-12 program.  After serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, he returned, graduating in 1948 with a chemistry major “and with minors in just about everything (the benefit of a liberal arts education).” He speaks eloquently of the way in which Drew enlarged a farm boy’s horizons and gave him a breadth of knowledge that has enriched his work and his life.

After earning a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at Penn State, Ely joined E. I. duPont de Nemours as a research chemist.  He was soon lured into management, ultimately becoming research director.  After 29 years with duPont he moved to International Paper in New York, where he retired as senior vice-president for technology in 1990.  The move from research to management was initially a struggle for a passionate scientist, but he found that added responsibilities enabled him to maintain his interest, draw from other fields of science, inspire others to fully capitalize on their talents, and interpret science and technology to people with more limited training.  Drew recognized his career achievements with an Alumni/ae Achievement Award in Science in 1985.

Living in New York City helped Ely to be more closely involved with Drew, and he served on the Board of Trustees from 1984 to 1990.  He was national chair of the alumni/ae phase of the Drew Dimension campaign, has served on the Alumni/ae Development Council, chaired the Drew Society/Special Gifts Committee, and is currently honorary chair of the Philadelphia Committee for the Gateways to the Future campaign.  He was Reunion gift chair in 1993 and is currently a member of the 2003 Reunion Gift Committee.  In retirement, he has taught science students at Drew (most recently a class in entropy in 2000-2001) and participated in the Alumni-in-Residence program.

Ely has especially appreciated the breadth of his Drew education since retirement has placed him in a society where few understand science.  He has always been keenly interested in music, along with philosophy and literature.  He has been energetic in raising funds for Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Pennsylvania Academy of Music, a pre-Juilliard type of school for the nation’s most gifted musicians of all ages, and he is director emeritus of the National Choral Council’s National Chorale.  Ely and his wife, Abbie, live in Lancaster and enjoy keeping up with two children, five grandchildren, and Bert the Siamese cat.