Gene D. Schaumberg, a Sonoma State University chemistry professor for 38 years who was known for his personal, generous nature, died Jan. 19 of complications from surgery. He was 71.

Schaumberg was one of the first instructors in SSU's Natural Sciences Division and was credited with hiring most of the chemistry department's faculty, his family said.

The news of his passing came as a shock to his family, who expected him to recover after the surgery, and his students at Washington State University in Vancouver, where he was teaching part-time after retiring from SSU in 2003.

About 100 Washington State students held a vigil for Schaumberg on Jan. 20, said his daughter, Tara Maya Schaumberg.

"He always wanted the best for his students," she said. "He always wanted them to succeed, and he always wanted to let them know how they were doing, their progress in life."

Schaumberg was born in Minnesota and as a boy moved with his family to Washington State. He graduated cum laude from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, which he attended on a football scholarship, and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Washington State University in Pullman.

Schaumberg presented seminars on environmental issues in numerous countries and was the recipient of five Fulbright lectureships. While at SSU he led an annual study trip to Nepal and Thailand.

"He changed my whole life for the better," said his wife, Terrie DeFiesta-Schaumberg of Vancouver, Wash. "He enriched me … I have learned so much from just being with him and talking to him. He was like a walking encyclopedia."

Schaumberg was a consultant for the National Science Foundation and was one of six scientists chosen as senior research fellows in the Indo-American Fellowship Program.

"He was my best friend," said his daughter Tara Maya, 19. "He was hard on me a lot of the time because he knew that I was capable of so much, and he was also very soft and patient and sweet."

In addition to his wife and his daughter Tara Maya, Schaumberg is survived by his daughter Jocelyn Billings of Salem, Ore.; sons Jason Schaumberg of Santa Rosa and Nathan Schaumberg of San Francisco; brother Jack Schaumberg of Texas, and five grandchildren.

A celebration of Schaumberg's life will be held Saturday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. at Evergreen Memorial Gardens, 1101 NE 112th Avenue in Vancouver, Wash.