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Remembering Dean Emeritus Sid Nelson

Special Announcement: Sid Nelson Endowed Professorship Inaugural Recipient Announced

May 6, 2013:
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Bill Atkins is the inaugural Sid Nelson Endowed Professor in Drug Metabolism. The seeds for the professorship were sown in December 2011, after our much-loved dean emeritus passed away. Our community rallied together to honor Sid's life and contributions to the School by creating the Sid Nelson Memorial Fund. The memorial fund later became the Endowed Nelson Professorship — a fund that we hope to eventually turn into a more substantial endowed fund in honor of Sid. We continue to fundraise for this important fund. Make a gift today.


In addition to the following tribute written by Dean Thomas Baillie, you can also read more about Sid Nelson's life in the Seattle Times, the Everett Herald and on his memory book. His family has also made the video of his memorial service available on YouTube. Please email us if you would like additional information about other ways to honor Sid.

A message from UW School of Pharmacy Dean Thomas Baillie
December 11, 2011

Sid Nelson-credit Dan LamontIt is with profound sadness that the UW School of Pharmacy announces that Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Dean Emeritus Sidney “Sid” Nelson passed away suddenly on Friday, December 9th. He was 66 years old.

It is hard to put into words the impact that Dr. Sid Nelson had on this School, the University, the scientific community and everyone who knew him.

It’s not just about the awards and honors Sid received for his leadership, his teaching and his prolific research — and there were many: Dean of the Year from the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Volwiler Research Achievement Award, UW Gibaldi Excellence in Teaching Award, UW School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumnus Award, John J. Abel Award from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and the Frank R. Blood Award in Toxicology from the Society of Toxicology, to name a few.

Nor is it just about the deep love he had for this School of Pharmacy, his colleagues and our students. Sid was a constant presence at student events, alumni events and industry events over the years. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the people around him — cheering loudly in the audience (along with his wife, Joan) at academic and industry events when our pharmacy students received awards; proudly supporting his Ph.D. students at scientific conferences around the world; regularly nominating his colleagues for prominent scientific honors; sending personal notes to alumni and former classmates when he heard exciting updates about their lives; and giving generously to the School of Pharmacy in the form of scholarships and a fund he and his wife created.

Indeed, there are just too many good things to say about Sid to encapsulate what he meant to all of us. I suppose, when it comes down to it, what we will all miss about him most was his kind spirit. Sid Nelson was a caring, genuine man who made a positive impression on everyone who had the good fortune to know him. The School of Pharmacy is not going to be the same without him. We will all remember his off-color sense of humor, his giant collection of penguin paraphernalia and his enduring authenticity.

Sid in labcoatSid himself was an alumnus of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, graduating in 1968 with a B.S. in pharmacy. He went on to receive a Ph.D. degree in medicinal chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco. He joined the UW School of Pharmacy faculty in 1977.

He was dean of our School from 1994 to 2008. Under his leadership, the School converted from a B.S. degree to an entry-level Doctor of Pharmacy degree program and added a nontraditional approach that enabled existing pharmacists to obtain the Pharm.D. degree. He also evolved the graduate programs and worked tirelessly to expand the School's faculty. In 2008, he returned full time to his research and teaching activities in the School’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry. In recent years, Sid held an NIH fellowship to conduct research in metabolomics/metabonomics at Imperial College London and he was named a National University of Singapore distinguished professor.

On a personal note, I had known Sid for some 35 years, having first met him at a scientific conference in Europe while he was a fellow at NIH and I was a young faculty member at the University of London. We became good friends and kept in close contact over the years, eventually working together as faculty colleagues in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the UW in the 1980s through 1990s. When I returned to the School of Pharmacy in 2008 to take over as dean, I knew I had big shoes to fill, but I also knew that he had left me a remarkable institution that he had played a major role in building — with an exceptional community of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

His death is a major loss to our School, the University of Washington, academic pharmacy nationally, and the global scientific community. It was an honor to know him as an educator, mentor, colleague and friend.