October 20, 2010
It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected and sudden death of alumna Silvia Carlota Termes (Ph.D. ’77, Pope).
Silvia was born in Havana, Cuba on November 4, 1943 and in 1960 went into exile with her parents, first to Ponce, Puerto Rico and subsequently to Miami, Florida. She received a B.S. in Chemistry (magna cum laude) from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico in 1964, and after some graduate work at the University of Puerto Rico, she came to Georgetown in 1969, where she completed her doctorate in inorganic chemistry. After Georgetown, Silvia worked at the U.S. Bureau of Mines from 1977-1987 in an era when women research chemists were relatively rare in the federal government. When the local laboratories of the Bureau of Mines closed, Silvia moved to the Office of Pesticide Programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she remained until her death. At EPA, Silvia reviewed studies on the environmental transformation and transport of pesticides submitted by companies in support of pesticide registration. She was also heavily involved in making recommendations for improving guidelines for conducting such studies.
Silvia’s friends and coworkers were frequent recipients of her compassion, her thoughtfulness and her sense of humor. Life’s little and not-so-little problems were always blamed on “Murphy,” and she often referred to herself as “the termite” based on her family name. She did not miss the irony of her work at EPA and joked that she would never approve a termiticide. With broad interests in literature and film, especially relating to Cuban and Spanish authors, a skilled calligrapher and cook, Silvia was an especially accomplished needlework artist receiving many awards, including several from the prestigious Woodlawn Needlework Exhibition.
Silvia will be remembered for all of these things, but above all for her courage in coping with and overcoming considerable health problems. As a graduate student she was diagnosed with epilepsy and subsequently faced a barrage of unpleasant medications for this disease. She overcame two life-threatening bouts of cancer, and later developed type I diabetes and heart disease.
A memorial Mass, attended by many of her local Georgetown contemporaries and coworkers from EPA was held in the St. Ignatius Chapel of Holy Trinity Church on Halloween, a coincidence that Silvia would have appreciated.
Many thanks to Prof. Michael T. Pope for this contribution.