Zdeñek "Denny" Valenta, PhD
University of New Brunswick
June 14, 1927 – July 20, 2019
Passed away peacefully on Saturday, July 20, 2019, at Hospice House Fredericton surrounded by family.
Denny is predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Noreen Valenta (née Donahoe), his brother Karel and his nephew Luba. He is survived by his second wife Eva Griew and her children. He is also survived by his daughter, Dr. Katherine Darvesh (Sultan), his sons Dr. Richard Valenta (Rosemary Gall) and Dr. Michael Valenta (Krista Biel), his seven grandchildren, Rozina Darvesh (Peter Burbridge), Noorin Darvesh, Katie Valenta, Michael Valenta, Daniel Valenta, Matthew Valenta and Kailyn Valenta and two great-grandchildren Noah and Gabriel Burbridge and his nephew Roman Valenta. Denny was very close with Dr. David Coleman (Betsy Van Gaal) and Linda Coleman Metzler (Sandy), Noreen’s nephew and niece.
Denny was born in Havlíčkuv Brod, Czechoslovakia. He graduated from grade 13 of the "gymnasium" (high school) in 1946, and based on the wishes of his father who owned a flour mill and a factory producing packaged puddings and potato starch, he then went to Zürich, Switzerland to study chemistry at the E. T. H. (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). He was fully financed by his parents until the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in February 1948, when all of his parents’ property was confiscated. From that point on, he financed his studies by coaching the girls’ basketball team, by summer construction jobs, and through student loans. In 1950, he went to Fredericton to study at UNB under the direction of Dr. Karel Wiesner. He received his MSc and PhD in Chemistry in 1952 and 1953, respectively. His postdoctoral training at Harvard had to be postponed until 1956, due to McCarthy-era restrictions on US entry by citizens of communist countries.
At UNB, he rose through the ranks, becoming full professor and head of the Chemistry Department in 1963. He headed the department for 8 years. In 1990 he became a Research Professor with the department, and was awarded Professor Emeritus in 1994. Denny’s research involved the synthesis and structure elucidation of natural products. One such project was the attempt to deal with economically devastating spruce budworm infestation in New Brunswick by synthesizing analogs of the spruce budworm sex pheromone – forming part of the basis for research still underway in Canada today.
Recognized internationally for his excellence in organic chemistry research and education, Denny was welcomed world-wide as an invited speaker at conferences, universities and industrial research laboratories. He supervised or mentored dozens of students, many of whom went on to achieve great success. His 1st-year chemistry and sophomore organic chemistry classes were legendary. He received a number of awards and honours, including the Union Carbide Award for Chemical Education in 1989. He was elected a Fellow of both the Chemical Institute of Canada and the Royal Society of Canada.
The family would like to thank Drs. MacDonald, Barton, Scholten, and Sainz, Denny’s friend and housekeeper Joanne Claydon, Shelley Swift of Gentle Pace Transitions, Dreama, Bayshore staff, Extramural staff, Heather Jarvis, Penny Pacey, Nurse Vickie Fulton and Nurse Christine Pethick , Jennifer, and all of his caregivers from the Shannex staff, Nurse Anita and Nurse Vanessa and all the staff of Hospice House Fredericton.
Visitation will be at McAdam’s Funeral Home on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 from 4 to 6 p.m. Denny has donated his body for medical education and research.
Donations in Denny’s memory may be made to UNB (Noreen Donahoe Valenta Scholarship in Engineering), the Chalmers Foundation or Hospice Fredericton.