Rolf Borchert

Rolf Borchert, 84, of Lawrence died on November 23, 2017, at Brandon Woods at Alvamar surrounded by his family.

He was born in Frankfurt, Germany. During the war, Rolf and his family were evacuated to safety to southern Germany in Schwaebish Hall and Schondorf. After studying at the University of Tübingen, he earned his PhD in botany from the University of Frankfurt, Germany in 1962. In 1959 Rolf studied at the University of Chicago on a scholarship.

In his 40-year career as a professor of plant physiology, Rolf spent 1962-1968 at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, and 1968- 2002 in the Biology Division at the University of Kansas (KU), pursuing his interest in plants. His published research interests included tree growth patterns and the flowering periodicity in the dry, tropical forests; he spent extended periods of time conducting field work in Costa Rica. He led KU Study Abroad programs in Bonn, Germany and San Jose, Costa Rica; spent sabbaticals in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts and Darmstadt, Germany; and chaired the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology for three years in the 1980s. After retirement at 69, he continued his research and published as professor emeritus, collaborating with researchers world-wide.

Rolf met Laura in 1959, on the dance floor of a passenger ship bound for Italy from New York. After a two-year multilingual, international courtship, they were married on December 30, 1961 in Pieve di Cadore, Italy. They lived the first 6 years of their marriage in Bogota, Colombia, where their three daughters were born. From 1968 to his death, they lived in Lawrence, Kansas. Rolf and Laura remained happily married for 55 years until his death.

As an avid gardener, Rolf maintained an ornamental and vegetable garden and year-round greenhouse. He enjoyed traveling, camping, hiking, reading, classical music, skiing, and ballroom dancing. Rolf was passionate about his work, believed in life-long learning, and valued teaching students independent and critical thinking.

Rolf is survived by his wife, Laura Zandegiacomo de Lugan Borchert; his sister, Renate Torok, of Vancouver, Canada; his daughters Monika Borchert-Hillman of Freiburg, Germany, Susanne Borchert of Freeport, Illinois, and Claudia Borchert of Santa Fe, New Mexico; their respective partners, Christoph Loegler, Jim Mueller, and Bob Beers; grandchildren Stefan, Marcus, Sara, Philip, Alanna, and Lisel; and nieces and nephew.

A visitation will be held on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at the Brandon Woods – Smith Center from 3 – 5 p.m.

Please leave a condolence at or sign the guest book at

Memorial contributions may be made in Rolf’s name to the University of Kansas Field Station and Ecological Reserves (KU Endowment Association) or Just Food and may be sent in care of the Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

11 Condolences

  1. robyn herzog on November 25, 2017 at 9:06 am

    rolf was soo sweet I work at Brandon wooods when he live
    always talking to the guys drinking coffee etc
    rip rolf

  2. Allan and Louise Hanson on November 25, 2017 at 10:13 am

    We send our warm best wishes to Laura and her family at this sad time. We greatly enjoyed Rolf’s friendship and good nature over the years and will miss him very much.

  3. Bob & Lois Hanzlik on November 26, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    We were surprised and saddened to hear of Rolf’s passing and wish to extend our sincere condolences to Laura and their extended family. Rolf will be remembered fondly by all who knew him.

  4. Dean and Judy Bevan on November 26, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    We always admired Rolf and are very sorry to hear of his passing. We regret that we will be out of town for the visitation. Warm thoughts and prayers to Laura and all the family.

  5. Helen Alexander on November 27, 2017 at 7:47 am

    I knew Rolf from his time at KU. I recall many interesting conversations, ranging from his childhood in Germany to his philosophy on aging! Best wishes to Laura and family.

  6. Joy Ward on November 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    My family is so indebted to Rolf for showing us how to travel and how to live life to the fullest. We will never forget our wonderful times in Costa Rica with Rolf and Laura. Rolf was an amazingly accomplished plant biologist and his works are very critical to the field. I (Joy) learned so much from him and appreciated his support, especially as I started as a new professor at KU.

    We so appreciate the wonderful times that we all had together and how much our children benefitted from knowing Rolf. We always loved the live German Christmas tree with the real candles and sharing good times and memories over the holidays.

    Rolf had such a love for family, and he will be greatly missed. We learned so much from him!

    Laura, thanks for all that you have done for us over the years.
    Love, Joy, Rob, Jamie and Kirsten

  7. Jack Schlager on November 29, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    It was a privilege to have Rolf as a academic colleague for all those years I was at KU.

    Laura, I hope your memories will give you peace and comfort as mine did after I lost Ann.

  8. Antonio Bonsangue on December 27, 2017 at 5:24 am

    Appresa la triste notizia ieri, porgo sentite condoglianze. Antonio Bonsangue (nipote da parte Zandegiacomo)

  9. Pilar on January 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Zia Laura Monica Susanne e Claudia. abbraccio con grandissimo affetto.
    Ricordo e ricorderò sempre lo zio Rolf. ..che mi lega alla mia infanzia dai nonni. Bacioni sinceramente maria pilar bonsangue

  10. Dr. Adolf Vees, Hechingen, Germany on April 2, 2018 at 5:57 am

    1956 wurde Rolf mein Vorbild, Freund und Bundesbruder an der Universität in Tübingen. Er war gescheit undm liebenswürdig. Lieber Rolf, habe Dank!

  11. Manfred Düll on May 18, 2018 at 3:23 am

    Manfred Düll, Rimbach, Germany
    I met Rolf early in 1952 when I joined the scouts in Frankfurt where he was my patrol-leader and I will never forget his comradeliness and helpfulness. He left us for university soon after he had graduated from school in the same year and I deeply regret never to have met him again since the mid-fifties. Looking back to such a long and fulfilled life will give his family peace.

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