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Alumnus, Biochemist Ralph Holman Dies at 94

Alumnus, Biochemist Ralph Holman Dies at 94

Ralph Holman, biochemist and 1937 Bethel alumnus.

Ralph Holman, a 1937 graduate of Bethel Junior College who was named to the National Academy of Sciences for his groundbreaking research of lipids and fatty acids, died on Wednesday, Aug. 15. He was 94.

Holman taught at Texas A&M, the University of Minnesota, and at Mayo Medical School, and served for many years as the executive director of the Hormel Institute. He was a founding editor of Progress in Lipid Research and wrote more than 400 scientific publications. A pioneer in research on essential fatty acids and nutrition, Holman made several fundamental discoveries about the metabolism of fatty acids and the competition between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In 1981, he was invited to become a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  

“Dr. Ralph Holman's pioneering research on omega-3 fatty acids continues to have important influence on our knowledge of good diet and nutrition,” says President Jay Barnes. “He was one of the first graduates of Bethel to obtain a Ph.D. in the natural sciences. He continued to love and support his alma mater throughout his lifetime. We are honored to claim this distinguished scientist and Christ-follower as our own.”

After graduating from Bethel, Holman obtained a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota, a master's degree in biochemistry from Rutgers University, a Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from the University of Minnesota, and completed two post-doctoral fellowships in Sweden.

In 1991, Holman and his wife established the Ralph T. and Karla C. Holman Endowed Program in Chemistry at Bethel.  In 1998, Holman was honored as Bethel's Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and the chemistry laboratory was named after him.

"Bethel Junior College has played a major role in my early education, teaching me the foundations of a broad range of knowledge," he noted in a 2001 Bethel Magazine article. "I learned from Bethel's faculty and students that one can be a Christian in any walk of life, and they demonstrated to me the fundamentals of such a life. The foundations of chemistry, which I learned there, have served me well for three score years in the worldwide fraternity of biochemistry, and I am grateful to Bethel for getting me started."

Holman, who was preceded in death by his wife Karla, is survived by his son Nils (Ted) Holman. A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Aug. 19, at Clasen-Jordan Mortuary, 209 Second Avenue NW, Austin, Minn. The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. on Aug. 20, at First Congregational Church, 1910 Third Avenue NW, Austin, Minn. A reviewal and burial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 21, in Upsala, Minn.