Remembering Crellin Pauling: The Later Years

The Pauling family at Deer Flat Ranch. Crellin stands far right. 1973.

[Part 2 of 2]

In April 1966, Crellin Pauling accepted an appointment to join the faculty of the University of California, Riverside. He did so, however, with mixed emotions, explaining to his brother Peter

I will be gratified to be on my own, so to speak, and I feel that the Riverside campus of UC is quite a stimulating place, and will develop very nicely. On the other hand, I don’t have a hell of a lot of confidence, and find myself somewhat frightened by the prospect of being responsible for classes and so on. Well, we shall see.

Crellin was sad to leave the Seattle area in favor of a region beset with smog, but he remained optimistic about the opportunity.

Two years later, in 1968, Linus Pauling made a trip to the Riverside campus to give a lecture as part of the university’s Centennial Celebration. Crellin introduced his father, an act which he felt did not help in his pursuit to establish his own identity at the university. However, he told Peter that he was becoming closer with his parents during this time and, in general, things were looking up.

I now, for the first time in my career, feel that I am working on something that is my own, and feel really in the forefront of research in my field. I have a paper in press, in the PNAS, the work for which has all been done in the past three months. In addition, experiments that we have underway are very promising, and will be very exciting, if they hold up. So maybe I can make it after all! I find that a degree of satisfaction with my work does wonders for my self-esteem. In turn, this new self-confidence does wonders for my general outlook on life, and for my relationship with people generally.

When Crellin’s eldest daughter Cheryl was in sixth grade, Crellin and Lucy told her that they were going to get divorced, which became final near the end of 1968. Not long after, Crellin met Kay Cole, a student in one of his microbiology classes at UC-Riverside. Kay loved his class and the way he taught and they quickly began to spend more time with one another. The couple married a few years later at the courthouse in Rubidoux, California, in the presence of Kay’s three children, a simple ceremony immediately followed by dinner some friends. Hoping to eventually gain custody of Crellin’s children, they began their life together in Southern California.

Kay and Crellin Pauling, 1987.

Kay and Crellin were fairly low key and they often spent their free time traveling – France was a favorite destination – going to the movies and shopping at farmers markets. Kay embraced Crellin’s children, although it was hard at first for the whole blended family to get along, especially when they were all living together in a three bedroom house. On July 22, 1973 the home became a bit more crowded when Kay gave birth to a son, David Crellin Pauling, described by his father as, “a charming and welcome addition to our household.”

In 1982 the family moved to Portola Valley, California, where Kay worked at Foothill College as a teacher of microbiology, cell biology and molecular biology, a post that she held for 18 years. Crellin also had a new job as Associate Professor at San Francisco State University, where he later became chairman of the Biology Department. A year prior to this big move, Crellin and the family had spent a sabbatical year in Corvallis at Oregon State University, studying halophytic bacteria. Crellin noted that their time in Oregon went by very quickly, but that he and Kay were able to work hard and be “fruitful professionally.”

San Francisco brought with it many new opportunities for Crellin, including his collaboration with Lane Khan, with whom he wrote a grant to the National Science Foundation in support of high school molecular biology instruction. Their main focus was to teach kids at an earlier age about recombinant DNA, restriction enzymes, cutting DNA and running gels. As a means of achieving this, Crellin and Khan launched a program where scientific equipment would travel among schools, allowing students to conduct experiments for a couple weeks, before the equipment kits traveled to the next high school participating in the program.

Crellin and Linus Pauling with Lynne Martinez and Ahmed Zewail, 1991.

In the early 1990s, Crellin began working with Steve Dahms, a chemistry professor at San Diego State University. The duo started another program together called CSUPERB – the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology.  The program brought together a group representing all of the campuses in the California state system and sought to mobilize and support collaborative student and faculty research. To this day, the organization continues to sponsor research and an annual meeting where students talk about their work and where CSUPERB awards various prizes. It is at this meeting that the Crellin Pauling Award for Outstanding Teaching is given to a graduate student in honor of Crellin’s passion for teaching.

When Linus Pauling died in 1994, Crellin was by his father’s side. He and Kay also planned the memorial service and the music. Following his father’s death, Crellin was placed in the difficult position of having to serve as executor of the Pauling estate. Serving in this capacity proved to be a lot of work, but was also on opportunity for Crellin to grow closer to his oldest brother, Linus Jr., who had spent most of his adult life in Honolulu. Nonetheless, as proceedings moved forward, conflicting opinions arose among his siblings concerning certain aspects of settling the estate, resulting in numerous tensions.

Pauling family reunion, 1994.

Amidst it all, in December 1996, Crellin was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of colon cancer – a shocking turn of events in part because he had undergone a colonoscopy less than a year previous and received a clean bill of health. He had surgery to help forestall the advance of the disease but decided against chemotherapy once it became clear that the cancer had already spread to his liver. Others recall that Crellin didn’t see much point in making himself miserable with chemo when it was only going to prolong his life and wasn’t going to change the outcome of his disease. Instead, he preferred to live out his days with a greater quality of life.

Crellin’s diagnosis resulted in a rapid decline, leading up to his death on July 27, 1997, at his Portola Valley home.  Only sixty years old, the youngest of the four Pauling children was the first to pass away. Reflecting on the death of her husband, and onetime teacher, some fifteen years later, Kay Pauling noted, “I’m a very fortunate person to have been able to know and love Crellin and to know and love his Dad, and I can’t imagine how my life would have been if I hadn’t taken that class.”