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Lester J. REED

1925 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Lester J. REED Obituary
REED, Lester J.

Lester J. Reed, Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, died in Austin on January 14, 2015, at the age of 90. Lester, the son of John T. and Sophie Pastor Reed, was born on January 3, 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Inspired by a Gilbert chemistry set given to him by his sister Julia, Lester demonstrated an early aptitude for scientific inquiry. Initially experiments were performed on a small table in a back bedroom. But when the house filled with the odor of hydrogen sulfide he and his "lab" were banished to a shed under the raised house. Eventually the inevitability of his lab was recognized and a sink and running water were added and the space more formally enclosed.

He attended Tulane University where he worked in the lab of Dr. William Shive, who later encouraged him to come to the University of Texas. He received a B.S. degree from Tulane University in 1943, and a Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1945 two years later at the age of 21. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Biochemistry at Cornell University Medical School in New York City with Dr. Vincent Du Vigneaud who won the Nobel Prize in 1955.

Lester met Janet Gruschow at the Cornell University Medical School where they both spent long periods of time in the cold room purifying proteins. They fell in love and were married on August 7, 1948. Lester and Janet confessed later that a contributing factor to their successful marriage was the fact that Lester did not want to go to Austin, Texas alone and for Janet, who was born and raised in Rochester, New York and had never been south of New York City nor west of Buffalo, the marriage provided an opportunity to see more of the country. As his career progressed, Lester was invited to give seminars and lectures around the world, which gave him and Janet many opportunities to visit parts of the world they had always wanted to see. In later years they traveled together extensively, visiting every continent and experiencing life in many countries. Lester and Janet were married for over 66 years, raising four wonderful children - two daughters and two sons.

In 1948, Dr. Reed joined the chemistry faculty of the University of Texas as an assistant professor. He performed groundbreaking work on the first isolation of lipoic acid and characterization of multi-enzyme complexes, with more than 120 publications, while mentoring multiple international scholars. He taught at the University until 1999 and conducted a productive research program until 2001, when he retired after 53 years. He was Director of The Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute from 1963 through 1996 and was appointed Ashbel Smith Professor in 1984.

Dr. Reed was a member of multiple professional societies (Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, American Chemical Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Protein Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science), served on many advisory councils and editorial boards, and was the recipient of several national honors. For his outstanding research in biochemistry, he was awarded the American Chemical Society Eli Lilly & Co. Award in Biological Chemistry in 1958 and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Merck Award in 1994. In 1973 he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and in 1981 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Tulane University in 1977.

Lester's entire family loves him and is so very proud of him and his accomplishments as a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and scientist.

Dr. Reed was predeceased by his parents, John and Sophie Reed, his sister Julia Ziskind, his brother John Reed, his son Richard Reed, and his son-in-law Bob Gibbins. He is survived by his beloved wife Janet Reed, his daughter Pam Reed of Austin, his daughter Dr. Sharon Reed and her husband Norman Hannay, of San Diego, California, her children Jessica and husband Ryan McCabe of San Diego, California, and Mark Dittrich of Newport Beach, California, his son Robert Reed of Austin, and his brother Ralph Reed of Memphis, Tennessee. He is also survived by multiple nieces and nephews.

A memorial celebration of Dr. Reed's life will be held on Sunday, February 15, 2015. Please call Kathy Lincoln at 512-656-6896 for information.

Contributions in Lester's honor may be made to The Lester J. Reed Professorship in Biochemistry, The University of Texas at Austin, University Development Office, Gift Processing, P. O. Box 7458, Austin, Texas 78713-7458, or to the .
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20, 2015
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