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Slavica Matacic (1933-2014)

Slavica Matacic, Professor of Biology at Haverford College, passed away on Wednesday, February 5 after a sudden and brief illness. Slavica earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in 1959 from the University of Zagreb School of Pharmacy, in what was then Yugoslavia, and her Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Zagreb in 1962. As a promising researcher, she was accepted as the only non-Communist at the Ruder Boskovic Institute, the national research center. While a postdoctoral fellow in Zagreb, Slavica met Professor Ariel Loewy who was on a sabbatical leave from Haverford College. Recognizing her intellectual and technical skills, Ariel invited Slavica to join his laboratory at Haverford as a postdoctoral fellow. In recognition of her formidable talents, Slavica was appointed to the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Biology in 1964. Together, Slavica and Ariel were the first to purify and characterize transglutaminase, otherwise known as blood clotting factor XIII, which has applications for hemophilia and other medical conditions. Slavica established her own independent research laboratory at Haverford, which, over the next 35 years, attracted some of the department’s top students.

She was the driving force behind the development of the junior year Biology "Superlab" course, and provided continuity, breadth of knowledge, flexibility and expertise to the lab program, teaching all four quarters of the class. In recognition of her contributions to the junior laboratory program and her outstanding work with her senior research students, Slavica was honored with the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1985.

Slavica felt passionately that science should be open to all, and worked tirelessly to promote the success of women, minorities and first-generation college students. Working with grants from General Electric and the Pew Charitable Trusts, she developed the MAST (Mentoring and Student Teaching) program, which brings middle and high school students from Philadelphia public schools to the Haverford campus to work with undergraduates. The MAST program was later adopted as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute-supported program, and continues to this day as a Marion E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center funded project.

Slavica served as the Director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant program, and for many years was the Director of the Multicultural Scholars Program at Haverford. In this role, she offered an extraordinary level of mentoring for generations of multi-cultural students, guiding them through their work in the sciences, helping them to locate on- and off-campus research opportunities and working individually with them to achieve their full potential. She was endlessly supportive of her student advisees, and her faculty colleagues as well as students benefited from her frank, incisive approach to problem solving and from her profound integrity. Upon her retirement in 1999, the College honored Slavica by establishing a scholarship in her name that provides financial support to students attending Haverford College.

Alumni/ae and friends wishing to share memories of Slavica and how her teaching, research and/or mentoring influenced their lives are invited to contribute a page to a “memory book” that will be presented to her family. Please send a page, in pdf format, to KINSC@haverford.edu. Pictures are welcome. The family requests that donations be made to the Slavica S. Matacic Scholarship Fund, care of Janet Heron, Director of Stewardship, Founders Hall, Haverford College. "Matacic Fund" can be included in the memo line.

Slavica was the wife of the late Mihovil Matacic, and is survived by their two children, Andrea Matacic Cayley and Michael Matacic, and five grandchildren.

A Memorial Service will be held at the Haverford Friends' Meeting House on April 12, at 2 pm with a Reception to follow at 3:30 pm in Zubrow Commons, KINSC, Haverford College.

Founders Green on a warm spring day.

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