OMRF ex-pres­i­dent re­mem­bered as vi­sion­ary

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY MEG WINGERTER

Staff Writer

Dr. Wil­liam Thur­man, who was cred­ited with tak­ing med­i­cal re­search in Oklahoma City to the next level, died Fri­day. He was 89.

Thur­man was the third pres­i­dent of the Oklahoma Med­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion, lead­ing it from 1979 to 1997. He started his ca­reer as a pe­di­atric on­col­o­gist and had was provost of the Univer­sity of Oklahoma Health Sciences Cen­ter be­fore join­ing the re­search foun­da­tion.

No me­mo­rial ser­vice is planned.

Dr. David R. Brown, chair­man of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the foun­da­tion's board of direc­tors, said at the time of Thur­man’s re­tire­ment in 1997 that it was “dif­fi­cult to imag­ine OMRF with­out Bill Thur­man,” but that his ded­i­ca­tion to the foun­da­tion helped it at­tract a strong re­searcher to suc­ceed him.

Dr. Stephen Prescott, the foun­da­tion’s cur­rent pres­i­dent, said Thur­man presided over an ex­pan­sion of the in­sti­tu­tion’s car­dio­vas­cu­lar re­search pro­gram and re­cruited re­searchers study­ing how the im­mune sys­tem can cause or worsen some disor­ders and how it might be used to com­bat can­cer. The sci­en­tific com­mu­nity had some in­ter­est in the im­mune sys­tem in the '80s and '90s, he said, but it wasn’t yet clear just how im­por­tant that field of re­search would be­come.

“It was re­ally in­sight­ful” for Thur­man to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of im­munol­ogy, he said. “That’s gone on to be one of our most dis­tin­guished pro­grams.”

Prescott didn’t join the foun­da­tion un­til after Thur­man re­tired, but said they worked to­gether for sev­eral years after Thur­man in­vited him to serve on a sci­en­tific ad­vi­sory board. Dur­ing that time, he ob­served Thur­man’s abil­ity not only to rec­og­nize im­por­tant trends in re­search but also to drum up fund­ing and keep em­ploy­ees happy.

“He was an in­cred­i­bly gra­cious man, in­tel­li­gent and in­sight­ful, but also with great peo­ple skills,” he said.

Thur­man was hand­son with peo­ple work­ing at the foun­da­tion, Prescott said. For ex­am­ple, dur­ing his ten­ure, Thur­man would in­vite the stu­dent re­searchers who worked at the foun­da­tion dur­ing the sum­mer to have lunch at his house ev­ery week, he said.

“He was a re­ally charm­ing, warm per­son,” he said. “He cared about peo­ple.”

The foun­da­tion al­ready was do­ing good re­search in the 1970s, Prescott said, but Thur­man rec­og­nized that it could be a world­class in­sti­tu­tion. To reach that goal, Thur­man used a com­bi­na­tion of re­cruit­ing top sci­en­tists, in­spir­ing re­searchers al­ready work­ing there and set­ting ex­pec­ta­tions that every­one would be held ac­count­able, he said.

“In many re­spects, his most en­dur­ing achieve­ment was that he gave the in­sti­tu­tion a dif­fer­ent sense of it­self, that it could have a global im­pact,” he said.

Thur­man moved to the Seat­tle area after his re­tire­ment but re­mained in­volved the Chil­dren's Cen­ter Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hospi­tal in Bethany, ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion. He is sur­vived by his wife, Gabrielle.


Dr. Wil­liam Thur­man re­ceives a bow-tie shaped plaque for his birth­day in 1981. The cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Oklahoma Med­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion cred­ited him for es­tab­lish­ing good re­la­tion­ships with em­ploy­ees.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.