Biochemist at UCLA
Robert Morgan Fink, 96, a retired UCLA biochemistry professor whose groundbreaking research with his biochemist wife included developing a new technique in the late 1940s to study the thyroid, died Wednesday of natural causes at his Pacific Palisades home, said Suzanne Coppenrath, one of his two daughters.
He was a pioneer who "is remembered as a very good scientist who did important work," said Elizabeth Neufeld, former chairwoman of the department of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
At the University of Rochester, Fink met his future wife, Kathryn, a fellow graduate student. After marrying in 1941, they worked together at Rochester on the Manhattan Project, which would produce the atom bomb.
The head of the project at Rochester was Dr. Stafford Warren, who recruited the Finks to join the UCLA faculty after he was named the first dean of its school of medicine. When the couple came to UCLA in 1947, space for experiments was limited and at first they conducted research at hospitals in the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach.
The Finks were perhaps best known for a 1948 breakthrough in thyroid biochemistry called the "paper chromatography technique." They used radioactive "tracer" chemicals on small samples of the thyroid and other body tissues, which caused them to essentially photograph themselves — and expose new and previously inconceivable detail.
The technique worked so well that the Finks were able to isolate and identify a dozen new biological compounds. The approach was later adapted to determine if chemotherapy was helping cancer patients.
In 1978, Robert Fink retired from UCLA as a biochemistry professor. His wife was assistant dean for student affairs at UCLA's medical school when she died at 72 in 1989.
Born Sept. 22, 1915, in Greenville, Ill., he was one of six children of a glove salesman who eventually owned the factory.
After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois in 1937, Fink did graduate work at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and earned his doctorate from the University of Rochester in 1942.
Prep football coaching legend
Gene Vollnogle, 81, a prep football coaching icon at Carson High during the 1970s and '80s, died in his sleep Wednesday night at his home in Los Alamitos, said his son, Gary.
Vollnogle's teams won 10 City Section championships in his 34 seasons of coaching. He won two City titles as a co-coach at Wilmington Banning from 1957 to 1962 and eight at Carson from 1963 to 1990, when he became the school's first football coach. His overall record was 289-73-1.
"In the '70s and '80s, he was the guy," former Carson Coach John Aguirre said.
At Carson, the Colts won titles in 1966, 1970, 1972, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990.
After retiring, Vollnogle served as an assistant coach at Los Alamitos in the 1990s and always made himself available to offer advice on his innovative offensive schemes that featured lots of passing.
"He was an incredible football mind," Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said. "He'd watch a film and get more out of it than 10 guys in the room. He's truly a high school football coaching legend."
Born Sept. 30, 1930, in Los Angeles, Vollnogle attended Fremont High School and what is now Pepperdine University.