William A. Pryor (1929 - 2019)

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Obituary

William Austin Pryor died quietly in his sleep on March 13, 2019. He was Boyd Professor of Chemistry and the founding Director of both the Biodynamics Institute and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU. He was preceded in death by his wife Gail Erickson Pryor, and survived by three children: Mark Schroeder and his wife Mary and their three children Anna, John, and Margaret; Tim and Susan Ferris and Susan's son, Daniel Guillory; and Eric Schroeder and Denise and their four children Camille, Marit, Caroline, and Ben. He was preceded in death by his Mother and Father, Adeline and Saul Arnold Pryor. He was born in St. Louis on March 10, 1929, and in 1934 moved with his parents to Los Angeles. After junior-high he completely skipped high school and was accepted at the University of Chicago with a scholarship, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Ph.B. in philosophy in 1948 and a B.S. in chemistry in 1951. He was awarded a Ph.D. in chemistry by the University of California at Berkeley in 1954. After 6 years in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching at UC (Berkeley), he taught at Purdue University, and then moved to LSU. He was promoted to Boyd Professor in 1972. He was the Founder and Director of the Biodynamics Institute that did research on biological oxidation and its role in human diseases. He was appointed as the first Director of the Pennington Biochemical Research Center in 1989 by Governor Roemer, and he took the Center from an empty building to an active research organization. Research grants awarded to Dr. Pryor exceeded over $60 million. Dr. Pryor was one of the first scientists to propose that free radicals and other oxidants can initiate chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Dr. Pryor was ranked as one of the 300 most cited life scientists in the World. He worked with five Nobel Prize winners: Linus Pauling (protein structure), Melvin Calvin (photosynthesis), William Libby (radio-carbon dating), Albert Szent-Gyorgi (Vitamin C), and Louis Ignarro (nitric oxide as a hormone). Dr. Pryor published more than 800 articles and more than 30 books, including the first textbook on free radicals. His books have been translated into many languages including Russian and Japanese. Dr. Pryor was awarded more than 30 national and international awards, including five from the American Chemical Society and three from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was the first scientist to be awarded a MERIT award by NIH, an award that assured continuous funding without application. Dr. Pryor consulted for the NIH, the Air Force, DuPont, Exxon, Dow, R. J. Reynolds Company, and the Philip Morris Research Management Group, as well as a number of other companies and government agencies. Dr. Pryor was an organizer and speaker at numerous international and national conferences. Music, both classical and jazz, was an important part of Dr. Pryor's life. At Chicago he played in a dance band and a bebop quintet, was president of the University of Chicago Jazz Club, and was an occasional lecturer on jazz in the University's Humanities Program. He hosted a radio programs on jazz starting on the University of Chicago's station, and thus began a 65-year radio career. He was on Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area, and from 1989 until recently, he hosted "Classic Jazz" on WBRH in Baton Rouge. Dr. Pryor will be cremated and his ashes placed in the family niche in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. A memorial service celebrating Dr. Pryor's life will be held at St. Alban's Chapel on the LSU Campus on April 13, at 10 a.m. Following the service, Mark, Susan, Eric, and their families will receive friends. In lieu of flowers, donations in Dr. Pryor's memory should be made to the LSU Foundation to be deposited into the William A. Pryor Chair Professor account.
Published in TheAdvocate.com from Mar. 15 to Apr. 13, 2019
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