A Good Friend of SPH: Bernard Queneau, 1912–2014

For those who knew him, Bernard Queneau was a shining, smiling example of how to make the most of your life.

When he died on December 7 at 102, Queneau left a legacy of service, hard work and happiness, inspiring people a fraction of his age to keep on keeping on. The day before his death, he celebrated his wife Esther’s 90th birthday and, already a long-time Eagle Scout, received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, joining a small cadre that includes Neil Armstrong, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Stephen Spielberg.

Bernie and Esther Queneau, celebrating Bernie's 102nd birthday.

Bernie and Esther Queneau, celebrating Bernie’s 102nd birthday in August.

With a PhD in metallurgical engineering from the University of Minnesota, Queneau’s career and expertise took him around the world. As that career wound down, his volunteer efforts increased and continued unabated: until his final illness, he and Esther worked in the bookshop of their local public library every Friday.

Queneau’s generosity extended to the School of Public Health. In 1995, he and his siblings established the Marguerite Queneau Memorial Scholarship Endowment in honor of his sister, a maternal and child health nutritionist who served in World War II, taught at Harvard and remained active in the field until her death.

The scholarship helps support SPH public health nutrition students as research assistants. More than 45 students have gained valuable research experience and received an hourly salary, in-state tuition rates and four paid tuition credits thanks to the endowment.

“Bernie has been such a generous supporter of our public health nutrition students in the name of his sister Marguerite, his brother Roland and the entire Queneau family,” says SPH Dean John Finnegan.

In August 2014, Bernie and Esther rented a yacht on Lake Minnetonka for Bernie’s many friends and large family in honor of his 102nd birthday. Finnegan was among the guests.

“It was an honor to be invited to Bernie’s birthday,” he says. “There was good food and cake but as Bernie told me with a big laugh, no candles because they would have been a fire hazard.  That’s how I will remember him: generous, full of life and humor and caring for the achievement of young people.”

Read more about Bernard Queneau’s life, his Boy Scout adventures, and the Marguerite Queneau Memorial Scholarship Endowment.