Elliot S. Vesell retires

Ann Guerrisi-Hawn
April 16, 2009

In 1968, George T. Harrell, the newly named dean of the College of Medicine, had the foresight to recruit a Harvard graduate who had spent time at both Rockefeller and the National Institutes of Health. This young man, then in his early 30’s, was Elliot S. Vesell, Vesell agreed with Harrell that this opportunity would, indeed, be one he would like to pursue. Accordingly, it was announced that Vesell would serve as the founding chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Penn State’s newly established medical school.

Vesell retired from the College of Medicine in December.

Over the course of his career at the College of Medicine, Vesell served the institution admirably. He was dean of graduate studies for an unprecedented 25 years and remained in his role as chair of Pharmacology for 32 years. Elliot is nationally and internationally recognized by the scientific community. His work in human twin studies, which led to publication of seminal papers assessing the role of genetic factors in contributing to large individual variations in drug response, was critical in establishing the scientific field of what has become known as pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics. Elliot has authored over 320 scientific papers, edited several books, and received many awards and acknowledgements throughout his career, including four major national awards in clinical pharmacology. He has served in elected leadership positions for several national scientific organizations and has been voted to two major honorary organizations that promote medical research, the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He holds two distinguished university endowed chairs of pharmacology, the Evan Pugh Professorship and Bernard B. Brodie Professorship. He also has received two honorary degrees from revered institutions.

Vesell remains tireless in his service to the College of Medicine. In addition to remaining active in teaching and research collaborations, he helped establish a professorship in his name and has been key to raising funds for the Thomas G. Passananti Professorship of Pharmacology. Vesell has worked diligently on several committees at University Park, including the President’s Planning Council, and chairing the Evan Pugh Professors.

Elliot has a wife, Kristen, and two daughters, Liane and Hilary, now grown but born at the Medical Center and raised in Hershey. His interest in and love for art depicting the American landscape continues unabated.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 16, 2009