William (Jack) Schull, Ph.D., professor emeritus at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and UTHealth School of Public Health; founder of the Human Genetics Center at UTHealth School of Public Health, died at age 95 on Tuesday, June 20. He was born March 17, 1922. Memorial service information is unavailable at this time. Schull was married to Victoria (Vicky) Margaret Novak for 63 years, until her death on Oct. 13, 2009, at the age of 87. Read his obituary in the Japan Times.
Schull was known as one of the most accomplished scientists in the Texas Medical Center and was world-renowned for his work on the effects of atomic radiation with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Japan. Together, Schull and James V. Neel, Ph.D., studied the genetic effects from ionizing radiation exposure and the results revealed the risk for cancer and mental retardation following exposure to such radiation. Much of what is known today regarding the impact of radiation exposure comes from their pioneering work. Schull’s colleagues say that his death marks the end of an era. He influenced many people and fostered numerous careers, changing the field of genetics.
Schull recruited Eric Boerwinkle, Ph.D., Graduate School faculty member and dean of UTHealth School of Public Health and Kozmetsky Family Chair in Human Genetics, to work at the school. Schull moved to Houston in 1972 and later asked Boerwinkle to join the faculty at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. When the Human Genetics Center was first established, it was called the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics. Schull remained director of the center until 1998 when Boerwinkle assumed the role.
Schull was instrumental in establishing the School of Public Health’s Starr County, Texas research into the area’s high mortality rates from diabetes. He recruited Craig Hanis, Ph.D., 35 years ago to address these issues in Rio Grande City for the school. Hanis is a professor in the Human Genetics Center and in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences.
Others who are still professors at the School of Public Health within the Human Genetics Center who Schull was also responsible for recruiting include GSBS faculty members Stephen P. Daiger, Ph.D., and Yun-Xin Fu, Ph.D.
Schull received a Bronze Star for medical services in the fight to recover Baguio on the island of Luzon, Philippines in 1945 during World War II. Schull created a device for oxygen tanks that allowed for twice the normal oxygen capacity in order to help treat more wounds and save the lives of severely wounded soldiers.
Schull was presented with the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class in 1992 by the Emperor of Japan. The award was given for Schull’s contribution to genetics in Japan in relation to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The National Research Council’s Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission presented Schull with the ABCC-Hiroshima Award for his services to the commission.
In 1980, Schull received the National Cancer Institute Award for his work with radiation-induced cancer.