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Haverford College

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Dan Koshland, noted biochemist, Haverford benefactor, father of two Haverfordians (and father-in-law to a third), died July 23, 2007 following a stroke.  He was 87.

The son of a Levi Strauss clothing executive, Koshland achieved eminence for his research into enzymes and proteins, authoring nearly 100 peer-reviewed journal articles.  A 1998 citation from the Lasker Foundation (which honors excellence in clinical science) lauded him for having made “contributions to the scientific enterprise that few can match.”  Indeed, with countless awards and memberships in the world’s leading scientific organizations, he played a defining role at UC Berkeley, where he advocated a cross-disciplinary approach to learning that at one point saw some 10 percent of the university’s students associated with his biology department.

He exhibited similar leadership in publishing, serving as editor of Science (1985-1995) during which time he oversaw dramatic growth of the journal’s scope and reach.  Although it has been more than a decade since he left this post, the days following his passing brought an outpouring of fond remembrances on the publication’s Web site.

“Dan anticipated that many emerging areas in chemical research would be fostered at the interface with biology and medicine, and he spent many hours, usually late in the day, teaching me, a mere physical chemist, about biochemistry, molecular biology, and biology in general,” recalled Phil Szuromi, Supervisory Senior Editor, in a characteristic comment.  “I benefited not only from his insight but also his foresight.”

Many on the Haverford campus echoed such feelings of great professional respect and personal affection for Koshland as a scientist, teacher and wonderful human being.

“The first scientific paper I ever presented to a journal club was one of Dan’s,” recalled former president Tom Tritton. “The subject (orbital steering as a source for the enormous catalytic power of enzymes) was so original, so imaginative, that it continually inspired my own lifelong development as a scientist. Later, when I came to know Dan personally, I realized that his active mind honored no boundaries, even beyond the sciences—he was curious about everything and excited to learn something new all the way till the day he died.”

“Dan was a marvelous speaker, always willing to be provocative and to engage in lively discussions,” says Judy Owen, Elizabeth Ufford Green Professor of Biology. “He enjoyed watching other minds work, and his own was never still.  Best of all was to listen to Dan and Marian parry ideas back and forth with the tenacity, deep respect and marvelous affection which characterized their relationship.”

He and his family—James ’73, Douglas ’76 and Cathy ’72 (his daughter-in-law and the Co-Chair of the Haverford Board of Managers)—were lead donors in the campaign that resulted in the creation of the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. Granddaughter Sophia is a rising senior and grandson Ben begins his freshman year in September.

“He was one of those people who you realized you were lucky to know, even luckier to befriend,” Tritton added.  “The world is a poorer place for Dan’s absence, but his personal exuberance, his love of life and family, his tireless intellectual thirst, leave all the rest of us richer for the experience of knowing him. Who could ask for a better legacy?”

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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