Hofstra University’s flags flew at half-staff in tribute to Bruce A. Lister of Baldwin, a longtime food-industry executive and campus benefactor, who died earlier this month at age 96.
Lister, a chemical engineer by training and civic activist by inclination, served on an advisory board for the university’s Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 2014, he and his wife, Doris, established a fellows program to provide students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry or forensic science with the opportunity to spend a summer at Hofstra conducting research with a professor acting as mentor.
A lecture room is named in Lister’s honor at the university’s Herman A. Berliner Hall, home to departments of chemistry and physics and astronomy. Lister, who holds an honorary doctorate from the university, had worked closely with architects in the building’s design.
“The Listers have invested their resources, time, energy and expertise in improving the academic experience of our students and training the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Hofstra’s president, Stuart Rabinowitz. “Dr. Lister’s legacy lives on in the students whose research and scholarship he and his wife have helped support.”
Bruce Alcott Lister was born in Brooklyn in 1922 and his family moved to Baldwin two years later. At the time of his death on Feb. 4, he and his wife were still living in the two-story clapboard home that his parents had purchased 94 years earlier.
Lister attended Baldwin public schools, then went on to Lafayette College and Columbia University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering. He served in the Pacific as a naval lieutenant during World War II, then did postwar studies in food technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Employed by General Foods from 1943 to 1962, Lister moved up from research laboratory technician to divisional research manager. He was with Nestle Foods Corp. from 1962 to 1989, retiring as vice president of corporate affairs. He held several patents in food formulation and processing for desserts and toppings.
While with Nestle, Lister also served as a food adviser to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s astronaut program. He later recalled that assignment, solving practical problems of space travel, as the most fun he had ever had.
“We needed instant coffee to dissolve in 140-160 degrees, not the regular 220 degrees,” Lister once told a Newsday interviewer, noting that the boiling point of water drops in the lower gravity of space. “We found freeze-dried worked.”
Lister was an inveterate volunteer, both at home and abroad. He traveled to Europe for meetings of the United Nation’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, where discussions revolved around cutting trade barriers.
Back in Baldwin, he was at one-time vice president of the community’s Interfaith Council and a lay reader at the First Church of Baldwin, United Methodist. He made his own jams and jellies for sale at church fundraisers.
In May, 2000, Lister was named Nassau County Senior Citizen of the Year.
As a Nassau resident, the retired executive was best known as chairman of the County Board of Health, a panel on which he served more than 30 years. During this time, he worked with the fire marshal’s office in regulating underground oil tanks, and he also helped push through the county’s first ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and bowling alleys that didn’t provide separate smoking areas.
“All he needed was five hours’ sleep,” said Doris Lister, his wife since 1990. “People would ask him why he did so many activities. He would answer, ‘Because it’s the right thing to do.’ ”