WILLIAM JACKSON SCHULL, B.S., M.S. Ph.D.
March 17, 1922 - June 20, 2017
Dr. William (Jack) Schull, President of the Schull Institute, passed away at 95 years of age on June 20, 2017. At the time of his death he was Professor Emeritus and Founder of the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics (CDPG), now Human Genetics Center at the School of Public Health, The University of Texas Health Science Center. Earlier, at the University of Michigan he was a founding member of the first Department of Human Genetics in the United States. Between 1949 and 1997, Dr. Schull spent much of his time in Japan, conducting research under the auspices of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) and its successor, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in Hiroshima, where he was successively Director, Chief of Epidemiology and Statistics, and Vice-Chairman. Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished scientist at the Texas Medical Center, Dr. Schull received world-wide recognition for his scientific achievements, judgment, and counsel. He was equally well known for mentoring, fostering, inspiring, and supporting the careers many scientists.
Dr. Schull, with his colleague, James V. Neel, laid the groundwork for studies of the genetic effects of the Atomic Bomb on the survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and guided the progress of these investigations for over five decades. Much of what we know about cancer and other human health risks of ionizing radiation can be attributed to these studies and those they inspired world-wide. The second major focus of Dr. Schull's research was the genetics of chronic human disease. The seminal research Dr. Schull and his collaborators did in this area in the middle 1960s set the direction for a major branch of human genetics now known as “genetic epidemiology.”
In 1972, Dr. Schull established the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston, where he brought together demographers and population geneticists to forge a focus on specific populations with high chronic disease burdens. In the course of his tenure as Director, the faculty and visitors Dr. Schull recruited to the CDPG, played a major role in the development of molecular population and evolutionary genetics, which has become the major focus of evolutionary biology world-wide. In 1994 the CDPG merged with the Medical Genetics Center in the School of Public Health, which was also directed by Dr. Schull, to form the Human Genetics Center. The following year Dr. Schull was appointed Director of the merged center, which was designated by the World Health Organization as a collaborating center for the investigation of the genetics of common disease.
The more than 425 articles published by Dr. Schull in professional journals and his 15 single-authored, and co-edited books, are a testament to his research achievements. So is his legacy shown by support for colleagues he recruited to the Center, which allowed them to reach the peak of their professions. The original core faculty all became members of national honor foundations or societies, directed their own prominent departments, and/or received endowed chairs from their universities. Many of the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows mentored, supported and inspired by Dr. Schull while at the University of Michigan and at The University of Texas, became leaders in human and other areas of genetics, epidemiology and evolutionary biology throughout the world.
Dr. Schull’s scientific contributions and leadership was recognized by his colleagues, who elected him President of the American Society of Human Genetics in 1970. He was also an elected Honorary Member of the Chilean Society of Genetics, the Japanese Society of Human Genetics, and Peruvian Society of Human Genetics. In the United States he was a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), continuing throughout his retirement as Distinguished Emeritus Member. In 1999 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2001 he became a National Associate of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Schull’s awards were many, and the four recorded here acknowledge more than just Dr. Schull’s scientific research; they reflect his commitment to improving human health and the application of science to benefit society.
The Bronze Star - Received in the Philippines for medical services in the fight to recover Baguioin Luzon in 1945. With many wounds incurred in the assault on the city, there was a need for oxygen, especially to treat critical chest wounds. Because oxygen tanks were in short supply, Dr. Schull created an apparatus that allowed available oxygen tanks to carry twice the load than normal. His innovation and saved the lives of severely wounded soldiers who would have otherwise perished.
ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) Commemorative Award - Presented to Dr. Schull in 1970 for his service to the Commission.
National Cancer Institute Award - Presented to Dr. Schull in Tokyo in 1980 for his work on radiation induced cancer.
The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class - presented to Dr. Schull in 1992 by the Emperor of Japan. This Order is the highest honor granted by Japan to foreign non-diplomatic personnel. It was conferred for Dr. Schull’s contribution to genetics in Japan and more specifically his work with the survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The world is emptier without Dr. Schull’s kindness and generosity, which influenced so many of us. He fostered untold careers worldwide, and generated ideas that changed the study of genetics and its application around the world. He was an exemplary teacher and mentor, who not only taught science, but also showed us the meaning of scholarship in science and the importance of being a nurturer. From him we learned how to do science and be interested in the larger context in which science is just a part of the whole. His depth of experience and knowledge ranged widely from history to haiku, pottery to Gregorian Chants, among others, and his interests and enthusiasms edified his life and ours. Dr. Schull lived a full life. He was actively advocating for the continuing growth of the ABCC collection at the McGovern Historical Center, Texas Medical Center Library, and was involved in a project using facial recognition tools to identify individuals from photographic collections. His memory was prodigious, and he continued his writing and mentorship until just a few weeks ago.
Dr. Schull’s passing marks the loss of a friend and mentor. He let us shine and took pride in our accomplishments. His friends in Japan, among them Dr. O. Niwa, current Director of RERF, and Ms. Merry Uemoto, Dr. Schull’s Administrative Assistant at RERF share our sorrow as do his colleagues and friends in South America and around the world. For those of us privileged to have known him, let alone be close to him, he changed our lives forever and his influence has extended to our biological and scientific families. It is a legacy that will continue.
William J. Schull was preceded in death by his parents Eugene Schull and Edna Gertrude Davenport Schull, his wife Victoria (Vicki) Margaret Novak Schull (1922-2009), and Elizabeth Hosanna Ley Schull (1979-2014). He is survived by his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, James and Mary Jane Mintner and numerous nieces and nephews, as well as by Bruce Levin, Katsuji Nagasawa, Conni Goldsmith Crittendon and Patricia Goldsmith Roman, whom he regarded as his sons and daughters
A huge thank you is extended to Nina Quartaro and to Sara Barton for their devotion to and care for Dr. Schull. We are grateful to Dr. Kim Dunn, Dr. Schull’s long-term friend and physician, as well as Christi, Syble, Donna and Michelle from Simply Care and Dr. Rick Tanueco from Family Home Health, who cared for Dr. Schull in his final days.
In accordance with his wishes, Dr. Schull was cremated and his ashes placed next to his wife’s, Victoria, who was with him for so much of his incredible life journey, at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee. A Requim Mass will be said October 13th at 4:30 pm at the St Basil Chapel, University of St. Thomas campus, 1018 W. Alabama St. at Yoakum, followed by a reception honoring his memory at the Link Lee House, University of St. Thomas campus, 3800 Montrose at W. Alabama, Houston, TX 77006. Those who wish to honor him are encouraged to contribute in his name to the Schull Institute (PO BOX 131755, Houston, TX 77219-1755). A complete obituary can be found at the Schull Institute website,http://schull-institute.org/william-jackson-schull-b-s and in the American Journal of Human Genetics 101:163-66, 8/3/2017 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002929717302811 .
Those who wish to honor him are encouraged to contribute in his name to the Schull Institute (PO BOX 131755, Houston, TX 77219-1755).