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Francis Joseph Varga ’79

January 4, 2023, suddenly, in Springfield, Missouri.

Francis embraced chemistry with childlike wonder throughout his long career. He loved designing science experiments to impress and inspire his children. He bought mercury and dry ice and taught them how to handle these materials safely. He purchased Karissa her first iMac in strawberry when she was only 3. But was it for her or both of them? Watching them play together on the computer, it was hard to tell.

Francis graduated from Northwood School in Lake Placid in 1973. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for his freshman and sophomore year, before transferring to the University of Freiberg in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. At Reed, he wrote his thesis “Use of Artificial Bilayers in Examining Rate Constants Involved in Carrier-Mediated Substrate Transport across Membranes,” advised by Prof. William Weir [chemistry 1968–83]. He graduated from Reed with a bachelor’s in chemistry and mathematics, after which he attended medical school at Syracuse University and then completed his residency at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, specializing in anatomical and clinical pathology. While at Dartmouth Hitchcock, he was appointed chief resident and an instructor in pathology. Following his tenure at Dartmouth, he became certified in hematopathology and received the Hitchcock Foundation Scholar’s Award. He was certified to practice medicine in 1982. Francis recently retired from Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he served as director of hematopathology, flow cytometry, and immunoperoxidase for 14 years.

Francis was an avid collector of art. He was particularly fond of contemporary furniture and photography. He loved trees and arboriculture and enjoyed tending to his garden and spending time in the woods of the Adirondacks. He could identify trees by their leaves and exotic woods in fine furniture. He loved photography and proudly displayed many pieces he acquired at fine art shows and galleries with photos he had taken himself.

A lifelong student of history and politics, his constantly expanding library was filled with books on post–World War I Russia, World War II, Reconstruction, and the history of communist China. Every few years, a new bookcase would appear in his study. New shelf space was never wasted.

A loving father to Karissa and Alexander, he adored spending time with his children. Halloween was one of his favorite holidays; he took great pride in creating original costumes for his kids. A bit of a showman, Francis couldn’t resist sporting a pair of horns for the occasion and parading around the neighborhood. Why miss out on all the fun?

Francis was a kind and thoughtful intellectual who possessed a unique perspective on life and the human condition. A true Renaissance man and unique soul, he was loved dearly. 

He is survived by his children, Alexander and Karissa Varga; his parents, Anita and Francis Varga; siblings Victoria Varga Brouder and her husband Daniel, and Thomas Varga; and nephews Ethan and James Brouder.

He was predeceased by his brother, George Varga, and sister-in-law, Loren Varga.

Appeared in Reed magazine: Fall 2023

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