Their gift supports cancer research at Chalmers

Chalmers alumni Folke Edler (K47) was a man who got rich on paint.
Together with his wife Marianne, he bequeathed one and a half million kronor to Chalmers. The money will now support young researchers in their quest to solve the mysteries of cancer.
”Folke was a Chalmers student and was very much involved in Chalmers throughout his lifetime, and took great interest in the organization. He thought that Chalmers was one of the finest universities that existed, ”says Marianne Edler’s niece, Anita Setterberg.
Anita speaks warmly about her aunt and uncle, both of whom were born and raised in Gothenburg:
”They loved Bohuslän and the sea and Gothenburg … They met around 1951 or 1952, and I think their meeting had something to do with Chalmers. I was only four or five years old when they married in 1955. My experience of Folke is that he was an ingenious and very humorous man,” says Anita.

Edler the inventor
Folke Edler was born on October 24, 1923. His father worked as a teacher at Hvitfeldska in Gothenburg. Folke, however, was to select a different path. As a twenty-year-old, he enrolled in chemistry studies at Chalmers, graduating in June 1947.
”Folke was an inventor. He loved technical solutions and became interested in paint, that’s how it started. He had his own paint mixes and he made his own glue. They were everywhere when I was a child, the little pieces he used and pressed together to try out different types of glue. That’s how he made his money, testing out new impregnation methods, he did quite a bit of that,” says Anita.
Did Folke speak about his university years?
”He thought Chalmers was one of the finest universities that existed. He did a lot for chalmerists at the time, even my family had a lot to do with Chalmers,” says Anita Setterberg.
Another of Folke’s main interests was model boats. He built his own, large model boats, which attracted much admiration.
”He left behind two boats – Passat and Bohuslän – and they were quite large. He was very interested in the sea and lived for his boats.”

Discovery: tung oil
At a trade show in the 1950, Folke Edler discovered China wood (tung) oil along with companions Ragnar Bergstedt, another Chalmers-trained chemical engineer, and the painter Rolf Hansen. Tung oil turned out to be an ideal material to be refined for wood impregnation, and they began importing it to Sweden.
”Yes, it was the Chinese oil that he was changing. I remember very well all the pieces lying all over the place at their house when he was testing durability and other things,” recalls Anita Setterberg.
The new product was named Westcoast, and became a market leader in the 1970s. For many years, Folke Edler and Rolf Hansen ran a paint factory of the same name in Lerum.
”I remember that when Folke had developed that impregnation agent, they remodeled their summer place, and all the wood was dipped in big baths of it – even the roof tiles. I’ve now taken over the house now and the wood is still just like new,” says Anita.
Folke shared various paint mixtures with friends and acquaintances so they could help with the tests.
“My father had great fun with that. He always said that if you were to go see someone you knew, but didn’t know where they lived, all you had to do was just look to see if there was paint from Folkes factory there, and you were in the right place,” laughs Anita.

A life devoted to teaching
Marianne Edler was born on March 7, 1929. She devoted her life to the teaching profession.
”She started out as a preschool teacher at Götaberg School. Then she went on to study special education and worked with handicapped children until her retirement,” says Anita Setterberg.
In the early 1950s, she met Folke Edler and the two married in 1955. It was a happy marriage, but they never had children of their own. Instead, they cultivated a common passion for travel:
”They traveled an awful lot, I think they went just about everywhere you can go. My aunt said that she never did make it to Egypt, but otherwise they had been just about everywhere. It started very early on. As soon as they got married they started traveling to faraway places. These were no short weekend trips.”
”Music, art and literature were other major interests of theirs. But Folke’s big thing was experiences. He had a lot to do with the United States, and he did a lot of business with them – both with adhesives and repellent,” says Anita Setterberg.

Cancer diagnosis
In the 1980’s, Folke Edler was diagnosed with bladder cancer. As a result, he and Marianne began talking about setting up a fund for cancer research, for example, for the bladder and kidneys. His wish was to bequeath money to Chalmers. After Folke’s untimely death on October 18, 1986 Marianne held on for years until she herself died on June 23, 2013.
”My aunt was very particular about how things would be with the fund. She got up early and talked to someone at Chalmers about it, many years ago.”
Anita Setterberg tells how Folke did not wish to be treated for his illness, but rather preferred to let it run its course:
”He said he didn’t want to live half of a life. That was his philosophy. If there was to be any meaning, that’s how it would have to be. This was how they started talking about setting up a fund to find and diagnose bladder cancer in particular,” she says.

Contact with Chalmers
Contacts were made with Bernt Rönnäng, Vice President and President of the former Chalmers Lindholmen; Stig Ekman, former Director of the Chalmers University of Technology Foundation; and Professor Bengt Nordén, to establish a research fund.
All involved were in favor of the proposal and when the will was revealed after the death of Marianne Edler, the now-active ”Folke and Marianne Edler Research Fund” was created.
With the bequeathed funds of one and a half million dollars as a foundation, the plan is to distribute 150,000 kronor annually in grants to researchers at Chalmers, for ”basic scientific research on malignant diseases.” The first scholarship will be awarded in October 2014.

The research fund arrives
Professor Bengt Nordén is still active at Chalmers and remember his first contacts with Marianne Edler and her visit to discuss how a donation could promote cancer research.
Now Bengt Nordén will be highly engaged in the distribution of scholarships from the Folke and Marianne Edler research fund.
”I am pleased with the arrival of this scholarship for two reasons: first, because it emphasizes basic scientific principles, which experience has proven to be especially conductive when it comes to creating breakthroughs in difficult areas of research, and because it was Chalmers and not another more hospital-affiliated institution that received the donation. With the strong research in life sciences and bio-chemistry currently under development at Chalmers, there will be many worthy candidates for the scholarship and it will play an important role in encouraging young scientists,” says Bengt Nordén.

A welcome contribution
Peter Lindwall works with donations and cooperation development at Chalmers. He participated in the process of establishing the research fund and is very pleased with the Edlers’ initiative:
”Folke and Marianne Edler’s generous gift to research at Chalmers, as expressed in their last will and testament, is a magnificent example of the strong ties that exist between Chalmers and our alumni. It cannot be emphasized enough how welcome this kind of contribution is,” says Peter Lindwall in a comment.
Folke and Marianne Edler have their final resting place at the Eastern Cemetery in Gothenburg.

Text: Michael Nystås
Photo: Private

Folke and Marianne Edler research fund
To support basic scientific research that may contribute to an understanding of the causes behind environmental malignant diseases, especially cancers such as bladder cancer.
To find biotechnology-based treatments.
To find prophylactic methods for these diseases.
The development of a technological device for early diagnosis or treatment may be considered as well.

The fund amounts to 1,500,000 SEK and is managed by Chalmers University of Technology Foundation.