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William Arna Deskin

Mount Vernon

William Arna Deskin, 94, of Mount Vernon, Iowa, died Dec. 24, 2018, at home.
The son of Arna William and Esther Mae Deskin, he was born Aug. 16, 1924, in Kirksville, Mo. He had a sister Mildred Lucille, who died at age 12, five years before he was born. On June 5, 1949, he married Ruth Eileen Milhoan of Winigan, Mo., his college sweetheart, who preceded him in death Aug. 20, 2018.
Mr. Deskin served three years in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, a portion of which was in the Pacific Theater (Okinawa). He remained in the reserve and was recalled as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the Korean War.
Mr. Deskin received his B.A. and B.S. in education at Northeast Missouri State University (later named Truman State University) in 1948, and his M.A. at the University of Missouri, 1950 and received his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1957. He held a position at the Army Chemical Center, Edgewood, Md., as a civilian in chemical research from 1950, until recalled to service in the Korean War. From 1952 to 1954, he taught chemistry and physics at Upper Iowa University before returning to the University of Iowa to study for his Ph.D. in chemistry. He retired after teaching for 33 years, as professor of chemistry at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He was a member of the Visiting Scientist Team of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society, and he often visited colleges and universities in the Midwest giving lectures on his research and newer topics in chemistry. His research involved the interaction of sulfur with metal ions.
Dr. Deskin was a member of several presidential selection committees at Cornell and was chairman of two dean's selection committees during his tenure. Dr. Deskin was chair of the Science Department for several years from 1960 to 1980. He was a member of a number of national chemistry and science organizations, including the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon and Gamma Alpha. He was a member of the Midwestern Association of Chemistry Teachers in Liberal Arts Colleges and the Iowa Academy of Science. Dr. Deskin spent several years on the advisory board of the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society. He spent three summers as a member of the writing team for the Intermediate Science Curriculum Study at Florida State University. He was a researcher and recipient of several grants. He was known as a mentor and a promoter of student research. One of his students, Ralph E. "Chris" Christoffersen, and his wife Barbara in 2012 set up and funded the William Deskin endowed professorship. He was a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Blue Key Honorary fraternity, Phi Sigma Epsilon social fraternity and the Masonic Lodge.
Dr. Deskin was honored by the Iowa Section of the American Chemical Society as the recipient of the Iowa Award Medal in 1991. It was an organization he had served as chairman and he had held several other offices. The Iowa Award recognized his contributions and service to chemical education. He was president of the Iowa Academy of Science from 1992 to 1993 after a long career of service in the academy.
As a member of the United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon, he had served as president of the Board of Trustees, chairman of the Administrative Board, lay leader and choir member.
For many years, he served on the Mount Vernon School Foundation as vice president and as president, as well as a six-year term on the Board of Directors of Chapel View Manor.
He is survived by two daughters, Susan (Greggory) Glenn, Mount Vernon, Iowa, and Cynthia (Kevin) Halbmaier, Albia, Iowa; son-in-law, Roger Pitlik, Mount Vernon, Iowa; nine grandchildren, Andrew (Ashley) Pitlik, Amy (Lauren Cicara) Pitlik, Garrett (Katie) Glenn, Geoffrey Glenn, Mackenzie (Benjamin) Kraus, Kristin (Richard) Mayson, Elena (Benjamin) Lamaak, Sean (Valerie) Halbmaier and Nathan (Katie) Halbmaier; great-grandchildren, Harper and Hudson Pitlik, McKenna and Josie Nost, Brylee Glenn, Eleanor Kraus, Jordin, Stella and Tyler Mayson, Elijah and Owen Lamaak, Elliana and Jack Halbmaier, and Brooks Halbmaier, plus one more on the way.
Preceding him in death were his wife; parents; one sister; and one daughter, Gayla Ruth Pitlik.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the United Methodist Church, Mount Vernon. Visitation on Friday, Dec. 28, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Stewart Baxter Funeral & Memorial Services, Mount Vernon. Burial: Mount Vernon Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, designated memorials can be directed to The Deskin Fund at Cornell College, 600 First St., Mount Vernon, IA 52314. The Deskin Fund is an ongoing endowment fund set up at Dr. Deskin's retirement to fund and support the kind of teaching and research with students that characterized his career at Cornell. The second designated memorial is to the United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon.
Please share your support and memories with Dr. Deskin's family on his tribute wall at www.stewartbaxter.com under obituaries.
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