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Remembering Charles Sleicher: Vintner, photographer and ChemE professor

February 20, 2024

The UW ChemE community mourns the recent loss of Charles Sleicher, Professor Emeritus of chemical engineering and former department chair. Charles passed away on January 23, 2024 at the age of 99.

Charles Sleicher holding his camera

Photo by Dwight Reed.

Charles came to the University of Washington as a new professor of chemical engineering in 1960, and remained a faculty member here for over 30 years. From 1976 to 1988, he served as Chair and played a vital role in building up the department’s undergraduate scholarship endowments.

“He was instrumental in setting up the framework for what our department has become today,” noted ChemE professor Eric Stuve.

Charles successfully raised funds from companies and alumni that went toward supporting new faculty arriving to the department and starting their careers.

Bruce Finlayson, Eric Stuve, and Charles Sleicher

From left: Bruce Finlayson, Eric Stuve, and Charles Sleicher, standing behind Wells Moulton at the department holiday party in Benson Hall, December 2000. Photo provided by Bruce Finlayson.

In addition to being a chemical engineering professor, Charles was well known for pioneering Washington’s wine industry as a founding member of Associated Vintners. What began as a collective hobby of home wine-making with several other UW professors grew into the formation of this foundational winery in 1962. Its success over the following decades defined the vibrant wine industry that Washington has today.

“Early wine appreciators would rush to the University Village grocery store when it was announced that their wine was available,” said Bruce Finlayson, another former ChemE department chair, “It always sold out within a few days.”

After retiring from UW, Charles devoted his time and energy to learning and honing his artistic skills in photography, and built an entire third career as a nature photographer. His photographs have been featured in National Geographic, Nature’s Best Photography and other magazines.

Charles Sleicher aiming a bow and arrow
Charles aiming a bow and arrow while on a trip in Tanzania.
Photo provided by Buddy Ratner.

Many ChemE faculty remember Charles Sleicher fondly for his compassion and kindness, and the energetic pursuit of his wildly varied interests even well into his nineties.

“Charles was a warm and caring person who kept reinventing himself and pursuing his passions to the fullest,” said Professor François Baneyx.

“I am grateful to have met him so many times” said Professor Lilo Pozzo, “I can only hope to follow his example for living such a rewarding and fulfilling life.”

View the obituary for Charles Sleicher.