August 18, 2009

Remembering Alain Huitric

By Bill Trager

Alain Huitric, professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry, passed away in late July at his home in Brittany, France, shortly before his 97th birthday.

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1967 School of Pharmacy faculty photo of Dr. Alain Huitric.

Al was born in 1912 in Sainte Rose du Lac, a small French-Canadian community in the province of Manitoba. In his teens, he and his family immigrated to the United States and took up residence in Los Angeles.

He served in the United States Navy during World War II and upon his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to further his education. He obtained his bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of San Francisco and his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco.

Al joined the faculty of the School of Pharmacy at the UW in 1955 where he remained for the rest of his career, retiring in 1978. He was the first School of Pharmacy faculty member to secure National Institutes of Health funding for research programs.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, nuclear magnetic resonance was in its infancy. Al recognized its unique potential for solving thorny problems of structural organic chemistry, and it became the primary research tool in the dissertations of virtually all of his Ph.D. students. Training in this state-of-the-art technique opened doors for their further career development.

A quiet and gentle man, he was foremost a man of integrity. Al not only embodied the qualities of integrity — sound moral principles, honesty and sincerity — he exuded them. The power of his integrity commanded respect and had a profound influence on the lives of many, myself and Dean Emeritus Sid Nelson included.

Indeed, Dean Emeritus Nelson credits Al with inspiring him to pursue the path of teaching and research. He also says that, without Al’s “gentle nudge and huge vote of confidence,” he never could have become the dean of the School of Pharmacy.

And so Al’s legacy has been carried on through the many accomplishments of those of us who were his students. This also includes the president and CEO of a Fortune 500 chemical company as well as prominent researchers and professors at major universities.

But perhaps most importantly, his legacy is carried on through so many other people whose lives have been enriched simply by having known him.

Al is survived by his wife, Simone. After being a bachelor for most of his adult life, he met Simone on a trip to Brittany — the birthplace of his parents — in 1963. They soon married and a few years after his retirement, they returned to their roots and settled permanently in Brittany.

Al, we miss you.

Bill Trager received his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry under the direction of Dr. Huitric at the University of Washington in 1972. He is professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, and he served as chair of the department from 1980 to 1983.

Gifts can be made in Dr. Huitric’s honor to the UW School of Pharmacy Dean’s Fund for Excellence. To give, visit this page or contact the School of Pharmacy Office of Advancement at (206) 616-3217, rxgiving@uw.edu

 

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