Dr. Lester A. Mitscher, 83, died May 8th, 2015, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Lawrence, KS. He was born August 20th, 1931, in Detroit, MI, to Lester and Mary Athelda Mitscher (Pounder). He graduated from Hazel Park High School in 1949 as Class Valedictorian. He married Betty Jane McRoberts on May 29th, 1953 in Ferndale, MI. She survives of the home. He was preceded in death by his parents, Les and Mary, his brother, Ronald Eugene, and his daughter, Katrina Louise Chapman (Mitscher). He is survived by Katrina’s daughters Stephanie Louise Hamm and her husband Steve, Pomoma, KS, and Jennifer Marie Chapman, husband David, of Topeka, KS. His sons, Kurt Alan Mitscher, Olathe, KS, his wife Karen, and his grandchildren Mary and Trevor, his son Mark Andrew Mitscher, Lawrence, Catherine Louise Crawley of Roanoke, VA, and grandson Joseph Drewry Thies of Washington DC. He is also survived by five great-grandchildren.
Dr. Mitscher earned his B.S. – Pharmacy (1953) and a Ph.D. – Organic Chemistry (1958) from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. As a graduate student, he worked on the structure of coffee oil diterpenes and on optical rotary dispersion under the late Dr. Carl Djerassi. He continued his work on natural product chemistry at Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River, NY from 1958-1967 where he rose to group leader in antibiotic discovery. In 1967, he accepted an associate professorship in Natural Products Chemistry at The Ohio State University to pursue his passion for teaching, quickly rising soon to the position of Tenured Professor. In 1975, he joined University of Kansas as a University Distinguished Professorship and the Chairmanship of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. He returned to the faculty in 1992 and retired as Emeritus Professor in 2011. During his tenure, he also held conjoint academic appointments at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Melbourne, Australia.
Throughout his decorated career, he earned numerous awards and honors. These included the Research Achievement Award in Natural Products Chemistry from the American Pharmaceutical Association (1980), the Ernest H. Vorweiler Award for Research Achievement from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (1985), the Higuchi-Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences at Kansas University (1986), the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Edward E. Smissman Award in Medicinal Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (1989), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1995), the Division of Medicinal Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society (2000), and the Norman R. Farnsworth Research Achievement Award from the American Society for Pharmacognosy (2007).
Dr. Mitscher’s research focused on the isolation, identification, and optimization of naturally occurring antimicrobial and anti-cancer agents, as well as the development of combinatorial methodologies. He published more than 270 research publications and authored or co-authored seven technical books on drug discovery and properties. He was on the editorial board of several technical journals including the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and the Journal of Natural Products. He also consulted widely among pharmaceutical firms, serving as senior advisory council member of firms such as Abbott Laboratories, Searle Laboratories, Dupont-Merck, among others.
Visitation will be held at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home from 6-8 pm on Thursday, May 14th, 2015. Services will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church, Lawrence, KS, on Friday May 15th at 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contribution to the Lester A. Mitscher Faculty Fellowship in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas, in care of the funeral home, 601 Indiana St., Lawrence, KS, 66044.
Messages & Condolences
My deepest sympathy for your loss. Les was a great role model and mentor to many. He will be sorely missed. You will be in our prayers.
John V. Schloss
Marshall B. Ketchum University
Dear Betty and family:
Condolences on your loss. I was sorry to hear about this. Les was one of a kind. He will be missed.
Dear Betty and Family,
Please accept my condolences on Les’ passing. I always respected him and looked forward to our conversations. He made a difference in countless student’s lives, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.
High Point University
Dear Betty and family,
our deepest sympathy for your loss. The scientific community has loss a great man. Less was an extraordinary scientist from whom we learned many things. He was a great professor, mentor, and friend. I will miss our phone conversations. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Ed and Silvia
Dear Mitscher family, Karen thank you for sending me information about your family’s loss. It was so sudden that I know that will add to your grief. May good friends surround you, God’s love enfold you, and the Spirit’s presence bring you peace. Grace, George Ann
We are honored to have known Les for the past six years as a collaborator and friend. He was a a wonderful person and an excellent scientist and remained so until the end. He lived a remarkably full life. It seems impossible that we will no longer be able to chat with him about science and so much more. We will miss him terribly. Please accept our deepest condolences.
Berl and Liz
Betty, I am so sorry for your loss. Our family will pray for you and your family at this difficult time. sue
Please accept our heartfelt condolences: Les was both a friend and a mentor in my ventures in Natural Products. I will keep fond memories of our tour of the wine road in Alsace in 2009.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Mitscher.
My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
We are very saddened to hear this news. He taught me so much and I deeply miss him. I used to go and talk to him whenever I had a problem. He makes me forget all that after few minutes of talking to him. He is very unique and amazing human being. I feel blessed to have worked with him and known him for a long time. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.
Telikepalli and family
Betty, My deepest sympathy to you and your family in the loss of Les. We will miss him greatly.
School of Pharmacy
Dear Betty and Family:
It was sad to hear of Les’ passing.My family and I remember well his days at OSU; the car
pooling,the faculty meetings and other events
and the joy and excitement that went with them.
We were saddened when you all left.His teaching
and scientific excellence made us better in ours. His humor will always be remembered, and for me the 4th category of the German Army
especially. Our deepest sympathies are with you.
Raymond Doskotch and Family
Dear Mitscher Family,
My deepest sympathy. Dr. Mitscher was a great professor and will always be remembered for his humor, good spirit and expertise. I am sorry for your loss. May his soul rest in peace
We are very sorry to hear the sad news. Les Mitscher was an extraordinary human being, scientist, speaker, and a mentor with a great sense of humor. I still fondly recall, during my (below minimum wage-paying) grad studies, when he noticed that I wore a new shirt to the lab, he immediately quipped, “I am obviously paying you too much!” and followed it with his characteristic infectious laugh. As my graduate advisor, I am forever indebted to him for caringly shaping my life & career in the US in so many positive ways.
With deepest sympathies and prayers for you and your family,
Pratik and Madhavi
Dear Betty and the Mitscher Family:
I am so sorry for your loss. I thought Les was a great man and I adored him. Thank you for sharing him with all of us. Your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Mark, I am sorry to read about the passing of your father. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Take care, Rob
I am so sorry for you loss. Dr. Mitscher was wonderful man who has made incredible contributions to us all. His personal absence will leave a tremendous void in the hearts of his loved ones but, his legacy will continue forever.
I am so sorry for your loss. Les was wise, creative, thoughtful, and charming. It was a pleasure to work with him. We hope you can find comfort in the great contributions he made in both his personal and professional life during this difficult time. With deepest sympathy,
Dearest Mitscher Family,
You are all in my thoughts during this time. Dr. Mitscher was a fantastic professor; I greatly enjoyed his classes and all of his teachings. His legacy will not be forgotten.
With Deepest Sympathies,
I have learned with great sorrow about the death of your husband. His contributions to Medicinal Chemistry will be lasting. His kind personality, sharp intellect, encyclopedic knowledge and generosity will prevail in my mind forever. My condolences for you and your family
Maria Teresa Molina
Institute of Medicinal Chemistry (CSIC)
My family’s thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Les was a thorough scientist yet still retained a sense of humor and perspective. Be sure to know that I try to use his perspective and anecdotes as frequently as possible with the up and coming Med Chem students here.
I was so sorry to read of the passing of Dr. Mitscher. My deepest sympathy to the family.
Dear Betty, So sorry to hear that we lost one of our best scientist,a mentor,a world traveler,and a friend with great sense of humor. His extraordinary contributions are with us. Lots of love to the family.
Dear Betty and family,
We send our deepest sympathy on the sudden passing of a great man. Les was my principal advisor for my graduate work (1967-1969) at O.S.U. He was like an older brother to me, guiding me through our ORD-CD work on the tetracycline antibiotics. I will remember him as a cheerful, neat and meticulous gentleman with georgous handwriting! We cherish the yearly Christmas cards and handwritten updates on your family and travels. Love and peace to you all.
Fondly, Tony & Elaine
Betty and family, My sympathies on Les’s passing. How as a great colleague and a world class scientist. His legacy will live on.
dear betty, madelyn and I were saddened tohear of Les’s passing. I remember many times talking with Les about his antibiotic work, pharmacy,chemistry and other topics like the politics of the university, the dean and many funny aspects of the campus and columbus. I’ll always remember when we went to Cleveland to give lectures to the local pharmacy group. It was early sunday morning and the car broke dowm in some small town in Ohio. It was freezing and we had no heat in the car. Finally help arrived and rescued us. Les was always willing to hear my questions on medicinal chemistry and willing to discuss them which often lead to other questions. I will always have good memories of Les and his harty laugh, a good colleague and as a serious and outgoing college professor. You, Les and your family are in our prayers. Jim and Madelyn Visconti
I received a very kind letter from Dr. Mitscher back in 1991, when I was serving in the Peace Corps. (I had read about his research on taxol. His work made world news.) I was recovering from serious illness at the time, so I wrote a letter, thanking him for his important research. To my surprise, he took time out of his very busy schedule to reply. That letter I have saved all these years. He was very gracious and humble, I recall. May Dr. Mitscher’s memory be a blessing.
We are both very much saddened by the news of Dr. Mitscher’s sudden death. As students of the Med Chem department, we both benefited enormously not only from his chemistry knowledge and his teachings, but also his generous personal help. We regard him as a kind and compassionate teacher and a personal friend. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family.
Siming and Binghe Wang, Marietta, Georgia and Georgia State University
I was very sad to hear about Les’ passing, and was looking forward to seeing you and him again later this month in Illinois. I consider myself to be fortunate to have known him for 50 years as a research collaborator, consultant and dear friend. I will always have fond memories.
Les and you together have been such good friends and mentors to so many, who will miss him deeply, and who care very much about you. I am so sorry about his death, and send my deepest sympathy.
University of Minnesota
Dear Betty: I am very saddened to hear about Les’ sudden death. We all had such a good time just about a month ago at the MIKI meeting. I will always remember Les fondly because of his wisdom, humor and his abilities as a remarkable scientist and teacher. My thoughts are with you and your family.
University of Minnesota
I am shocked and sorry about the loss of your husband, Les, who was a trusted colleague over the years. I admired Les for both his science and his humor. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.
Philip S. Portoghese
University of Minnesota
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