Paul L. LaCelle, M.D.
Paul L. LaCelle, M.D. (M ’59), a University of Rochester Medical Center faculty member for more than 40 years, a former department chair and former senior dean, died March 9, 2012. He was 82.
Dr. LaCelle joined the faculty in 1964 as an instructor of what was then the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics. He was named a professor in 1974 and chaired what is now the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics from 1977 to 1996.
He was named acting senior associate dean for graduate studies in 1996 and was appointed to the position in 2001, serving until 2008. After stepping down as dean, Dr. LaCelle became a professor emeritus of pharmacology and physiology. He continued to work in research and in mentoring scientists until just a few months before his death.
“Paul LaCelle served our School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Medical Center for many years by recruiting many excellent scientists and fostering solid research,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “We are proud of what he provided us and we mourn his death.”
Marshall A. Lichtman, M.D. (R ’66), professor of medicine and a former dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, called Dr. LaCelle “one of the great contributors to this Medical Center.”
“He was a fine physician and hematologist but chose to focus on blood cell research and in so doing he pioneered the field of blood cell biophysics at this school,” Lichtman said. “As chair, he developed the department and recruited outstanding scientists to the school. He was a thoughtful and gentle person and had the great respect and affection of those who worked with him.”
During Dr. LaCelle’s time as senior associate dean, three new graduate programs were developed: a Ph.D in translational biomedical sciences, a Ph.D. in epidemiology, and a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling. The number of graduate students also increased, in parallel with the increase in research faculty.
“Paul was one of the reasons I have spent my entire career in Rochester,” said Robert “Berch” Griggs, M.D. (R ’71), a former chair of neurology. “He spent great effort on making sure excellence was recognized and rewarded. He worked, often behind the scenes and with no interest in being recognized for his own contributions, to make the University of Rochester and Rochester the best we could be.”
Dr. LaCelle was the last chair of what was the Department of Biophysics. His tenure spanned the era when the department focused on the cold war mission of understanding the effects of radiation on humans to the current interest on details of molecular structure and how they relate to health problems.
Dr. LaCelle, who was born July 4, 1929, earned his undergraduate degree at Houghton College. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Dr. LaCelle’s wife, June Dukeshire LaCelle, died in 2008. He is survived by his four children, two sisters, two brothers and five grandchildren. Charitable donations can be made to the Wilmot Cancer Center.
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