Jim Pearson, a partner at Bioscience Advisors and a graduate student of Regnier's, says that Regnier never told him what experiment
to do; instead he let Pearson explore and discussed the results afterwards. "This instilled a sense of scientific curiosity
in me, because I could test my own ideas and bounce the results off Regnier," he said. Pearson's favourite example of this
was in 1980 when he coated various porous silicas with an experimental reversed-phase coating containing an adamantyl "box-like"
group at the end of the n-alkyl ligand. The goal was to see if peptide or protein selectivity could be enhanced, and the silicas had various pore diameters,
ranging from 55 to 1000 Å. "To my surprise, the 330-Å diameter porous silica worked the best by far, and I was excited about
my adamantyl 'box-like' ligand find," he said. "Regnier just smiled when he saw the data because he knew I [had] stumbled
upon the understanding that the pore diameter effect is key for resolution." Regnier told Pearson to make an HPLC column with
that 330-Å porous silica using a C8 ligand instead, which resulted in even better selectivity. "C8-coated 330-Å porous silica
reversed-pha se columns soon became the universal standard for peptide and protein separations for the next 25 years," said
Pfannkoch had a similar experience of being given independence in Regnier's laboratory, with his first real exposure to HPLC
instrumentation. Pfannkoch explained that Regnier had an HPLC instrument that was also used to pack HPLC columns, and someone
had precipitated buffer in the lines. "Regnier handed me some wrenches and a manual and said, 'Fix it,'" said Pfannkoch. "After
that day I was never intimidated by analytical instrumentation."
Krestel-Rickert also said that Regnier taught her a lot about HPLC and GC and entrusted her with maintaining the HPLC system.
What was much bigger than that, however, was that Regnier took her into his laboratory under a National Science Foundation
grant on dog olfaction after she lost her major professor at Florida State and still had two years left to complete her PhD.
"Regnier made a lot of things possible for me and always had my and all of his student's best interests and futures in mind,"
Pfannkoch summarized Regnier's role as an educator nicely. "Regnier's leadership, enthusiasm, example, and humility serve
as a tremendous role model for all the best in science," he said.
The affection that Regnier's students have for him was recently demonstrated when many of them gathered together for a surprise
party in honour of his retirement from Purdue University in May 2013. Jianming Lei, an analytical chemist at the office of
Indiana State Chemist at Purdue University and a former graduate student of Regnier's, helped to organize the party and reached
out to all of Regnier's former students and colleagues to create a book of congratulation letters, stories, and photos of
Regnier throughout the years, titled Fred Regnier's Indy 500 of Chromatography and Other Stories.
A few of those photos are included here. In the book, Regnier's wife, Linda, said that for Regnier, his students were
"his life, his passion, and his pride and joy".