Alexander Whitehill Clowes MD
Alexander Whitehill Clowes, MD

Alexander (Alec) Whitehill Clowes, professor of surgery at the University of Washington and renowned researcher in vascular diseases, died of a brain glioblastoma on July 7, 2015, at the age of 68.

Alec was born into a family with a legacy of medical research. His forbearer, Sir William Clowes, physician to the admiral of the British fleet as it fought the Spanish Armada, published in 1588 one of the earliest textbooks on surgery in the English language. Alec's grandfather was George Henry Alexander Clowes, PhD, the scientist and mastermind behind the purification of insulin for clinical use, and his father, George Henry Alexander Clowes, Jr., was an academic surgeon and researcher at Case Western Reserve and Harvard.

It therefore is no surprise that Alec's favorite memories were of science classes in high school (Phillips Exeter Academy, 1964) and college (Harvard College, 1968) followed by his own laboratory experience in Sheffield, England, during medical school (Harvard Medical School, 1972). Despite his original intention to restrict his career to research, Alec discovered profound enjoyment in patient care. He switched to concentrate on a career in academic surgery.

He obtained his general surgery training at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, between 1972 and 1979, and advanced training in vascular surgery with Dr. John A. Mannick at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston (1979-1980). His thoughts never far from research, he interrupted his general surgery residency to work in the laboratory of Dr. Morris Karnovsky at Harvard Medical School. It was during this period (1974-1977) that Alec developed his life-long interest in vascular biology and arterial wound healing.

In 1980 at the conclusion of his training, Alec departed his native New England for Seattle, joined the faculty of the Department of Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and never looked back. He rose through the ranks to Professor of Surgery in 1990, Acting Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1992-3, and Chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery from 1995 to 2007. No offers from other institutions could lure him away. He developed an intense loyalty to the University of Washington where he found a cooperative environment that nurtured innovation, research, and outstanding patient care.

Throughout his years at the UW, Alec's focus remained on his research, the training of physicians for careers in academic vascular surgery, and the care of patients with vascular diseases. Along the way, he assumed leadership responsibilities in numerous national and international professional organizations. The National Institutes of Health funded his research for a third of a century, an astonishing record. His efforts engendered many honors and awards; most recently Alec received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Vascular Surgery. His collected scientific publications fill over six volumes.

Despite the acclaim of his peers, Alec remained a modest person. Nothing gave him more professional satisfaction than witnessing the success of his students and colleagues. A generation of young vascular surgeons and investigators consider Alec their role model as a leader who inspired with his intellect and with the warmth of his friendship and collegiality. He considered his greatest achievements to be the care he gave his patients and his mentoring of young physicians.

Alec and Susan Detweiler found great happiness together in their marriage in 2000 after Alec was widowed in 1998 (Monika Clowes). Alec delighted in the family life he shared with Susan's children, Aaron and Amanda, as he experienced their college and graduate school years, family vacations and, later, their marriages. Being a grandfather to Aaron's daughters, Charlotte and Claire, and Amanda's daughter, Alice, he said, was "the joy of my life."

As the Clowes family patriarch and president of The Clowes Fund since 2001, Alec provided leadership for his family's collaboration in philanthropy in Seattle, Indiana and New England. Alec wrote a biography (forthcoming 2016, Indiana University Press) of his paternal grandfather, George Henry Alexander Clowes, who played a pivotal role in the early history of insulin and established the Fund.

A long-time member of the Board of Trustees of the Seattle Symphony, Alec was particularly proud to have been involved in the building of Benaroya Hall and, more recently, the recruitment of the Symphony's new music director, Ludovic Morlot. Alec, who considered music essential to life, contributed his energy to furthering music education in under-served schools through The Clowes Fund.

Admired by his family and friends for his elegant mind, truly kind nature and generous spirit, Alec leaves a hole in the universe impossible to fill.

Alec is survived by his wife, Susan Detweiler, her children Aaron Patterson (Erin) and Amanda Lovelace (Blake), and granddaughters Charlotte, Claire, and Alice; by his mother Margaret Jackson Clowes; by his sisters Margaret Bowles (Frank) and Edith Clowes (Craig Huneke), and his brother Jonathan Clowes (Evelyn); and by ten nieces and nephews. Alec's brother Thomas Clowes (Markie) died in 2010. This diverse tribe love Alec dearly and will miss him forever.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alexander W. Clowes Endowed Chair at the University of Washington, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, or a charity of your choice.

A memorial celebration of Alec's life will be held Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at 4:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, Seattle.
Published by The Seattle Times on Jul. 12, 2015.
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Celebration of Life
Benaroya Hall
200 University St, Seattle, WA
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20 Entries
Dr. Clowes not only saved my leg in 2010, but saved my spirit.
I had a sarcoma in the blood vessels in my knee which supplied my lower leg. Dr. Chappie Conrad referred me for the complicated surgery. Dr. Clowes was so sweet and supportive before the surgery. I went into surgery feeling and knowing I was in the BEST of hands, superior talent, and heart. I think of him often when I think back to that episode in my life. He was an angel and still is.

My heartfelt sympathies go to his family. Bless them and his heart.
Mary (Beth) Autrey
November 18, 2015
Alec was a warm and inviting person, and a wonderful mentor to the entire crew of Seattle postdocs over many years. I always enjoyed meeting and talking with this true gentleman.

Michelle Bendeck
Michelle Bendeck
October 16, 2015
I was looking for Dr. Clowes address to send a Thank You card. It is ten years ago Aug. 18, tomorrow that he and Dr. Mulligan teamed up to save my life from an aneurysm in the right subclavian artery that had positioned itself behind my esophagus and trachea. I am so sorry and surprised to see his passing. I had looked for info earlier this summer. Thank you for his dedication. Kaye Chapman
Linda Kaye Chapman
August 17, 2015
I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Dr. Clowes in April 2014 at the meeting of the ISACB. Dr Clowes was generous and genuine with his keen advice on my research which was delivered consistently with a kind and gracious demeanor. I was also grateful for the opportunity to visit him at his lab last fall during a trip to Seattle. He gave of his time selflessly which was a precious gift to junior faculty like myself. I will be forever grateful and honored to have known him. I will remember him always for his generosity in sharing his time and intellect.

Julie Phillippi, PhD
University of Pittsburgh
August 4, 2015
Alec! It is so hard to learn that you are no longer with us> But your spirit, gentleness and generosity live on to provide a beacon for all your friends in a world fraught with lee shores and stormy weather. Kate and I first met you and other members of your family in Woods Hole over thirty years ago. Your father and mother took me under their wing in those early days providing the special Clowes brand of support at a time when I needed it the most. May your voyage among the stars bring much peace and happiness. We will meet again in some magical cove and there, around a sparkling fire, we'll share our adventures and our laughter will echo through the pines. Sail on, my friend. They say the sailing is out of this world. Rafe and Kate
Rafe and Kate Parker
July 24, 2015
I am a most fortunate person to have had his expertise and gentle care. I am alive today because of his diagnostic skill and I am grateful. When he said I would need to go to Wake Forrest Hospital in Winston Salem North Carolina for the surgery, I was quite taken aback. Long story was a very successful outcome and I am most grateful.

My sincere condolences to his family.

Marcia Royer
Marcia Royer
July 22, 2015
Our deepest condolences for your family, we are so sorry for your loss. May your loving memories hold close in your heart and God's love give you peace and comfort. (Psalm 83:18)
July 18, 2015
I met Alex while serving on the Seattle Symphony Board. I enjoyed his quiet but intelligent approach to thinking and offering solutions to difficult problems. He was a gentle, unassuming man who accomplished much and will be missed by his Symphony family. My condolences to Susan and his family for I know your loss is great.
Linda Stevens
July 17, 2015
I was one of the many surgical residents who had the great fortune of learning from Dr. Clowes. In addition to his amazing optimism and generosity in teaching, what I will remember most was his gentleness. I remember sitting in his office one day, discussing my future, and though I decided not to become a vascular surgeon, Dr. Clowes was steadfast in his opinion that what I decided to do would be right for me, and that I had an amazing future in front of me, both personally and professionally. I will always be so grateful for his generosity of spirit.
Ellen Cooper
July 16, 2015
A wonderful person. Honored to have known him, and will miss him.
Jenny Goforth Stead
July 16, 2015
Alec was one of the first people I met when I came to UW almost 20 years ago. From day one he was kind, helpful, generous and gracious. I never heard an unkind word from him and he always exuded genuine interest in others and a passion for surgery, education and science that will be missed. A light has gone out of the world.
Karen Horvath
July 15, 2015
Nothing but an empty feeling yet filled with the vibrant and generous athmosphere you always carried to us. You were my mentor until the very last and a beacon for my professional and personal ambitions. If I reach ever so close, I will remain in your shadow.
Ulf and Annabelle Hedin
July 14, 2015
Alec was a great surgeon-scientist, an outstanding vascular biologist, and a close friend of ours for 35 years. His friendship made us feel at home when we lived in Seattle and gave us many great times together, in the US, in Sweden, and elsewhere. We will always remember Alec's warm personality and dry sense of humor. Our thoughts are with Susan and the family.
Goran and Margareta Hansson
July 14, 2015
My Memory is of a man with a joy for healing and a gracious bedside manner mixed with an inquisitive blend of humor and practical medicine. He did my endarterectomy in 2001 at the UWMC. He cared deeply for his patients, my mother was since 1985 and passed in May this year just enjoyed seeing him in clinic. He always asked how things were and not just in the medical sense. His wit, appreciation of life and his genuine care for the people he helped will be sorely missed in this non-stop world; his legacy will be remember with fondness and will grow larger with the passage of time. God Bless his family and friends; for God has called him home--his work is finished, here.
HEnry Rathbun
July 14, 2015
I met Dr. Clowes when we went for a consultation about Dad's aortic aneurism in 2003. Dr. Clowes carefully outlined the options and the possibilities for new types of surgical procedures. He was wonderful with Dad, and guided him toward the best course of treatment. We will remember Dr. Clowes fondly, and know that many other patients will always be grateful for his kindness, compassion, and brilliance. I am so sorry about his passing.
Terry Moos
July 13, 2015
It has been my good fortune to know Alec for over 30 years. I admired him greatly and have enormous respect for him as a scientist and as a person and I am proud to have been a colleague and a friend. He has left a legacy in vascular biology, surgical education, the arts and philanthropy. He will be missed but surely not forgotten.
My most sincere condolences to you and all of your combined families.

Jerry Goldstone
jerry goldstone
July 13, 2015
Alec was a big supporter of the music scene in Seattle, especially the Symphony and the Seattle Chamber Music Society. I remember many of the interesting discussions during concert intermissions and other music related events, and I was always so impressed with his sharing of his views and supportive comments. He was a fun person to be around and we will sorely miss him. My sincere condolences to Susan and her entire family for the loss of their loved one.
Bruno Vogele
July 13, 2015
Alec, I miss you. I miss you dropping into my office with that wonderful smile, to talk some science. I miss your pointed council with respect to the vascular biology projects we were working on. I miss talking about the philosophy of mentoring junior faculty and post-docs, and politics of university life. I miss your council about several family decisions we discussed. I am thankful that you were my friend during the time that Jack was ill and died, and I am thankful that you helped my daughter, Maya. I hope this message reaches you in that spiritual place that we will all enter one day. I miss you. Renee
July 13, 2015
This is very sad news and a big loss to the vascular biology and surgery communities. He will be greatly missed. My heartfelt condolences to Alec's wife, Susan, and all of the family.


Martha S. Lundberg, Ph.D.
Program Director, Tissue Engineering
Division of Cardiovascular Sciences
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
July 13, 2015
Surgeon, academic, philanthropist, classical music devotee, kind and gentle, loyal, and committed. Our community and I will miss him enormously.

Dick Tompkins
July 12, 2015
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