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.