November 2010

Retrospective: Dale J. Benos (1950 - 2010)

 

The ASBMB community was deeply saddened by the recent death of Journal of Biological Chemistry Associate Editor Dale Benos. He was an esteemed colleague and a dear friend to many. Benos served as chairman of the University of Alabama’s department of physiology and biophysics. 


BenosDale J. Benos, who died suddenly Oct. 7, a week after his 60th birthday, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, who had mixed Greek and Czech heritage, was a railroad worker, whereas his mother, whose family was of Italian ancestry, was a beautician.

After briefly considering a career as a professional baseball player, Dale elected for the decidedly less glamorous path of a physiologist, a choice that nonetheless yielded significant prominence.

After parochial school, Dale attended Case Western Reserve University, where he carried out laboratory research as an undergraduate, bringing him and another student, Pete Cala, to the lab of Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen, the daughter of August Krogh and one of the great comparative physiologists of the 20th century.

Under Bodil’s guidance, and that of postdoctoral fellow Robert Prusch, Dale embarked on his first formal scientific research: studying osmoregulation in freshwater hydra. That work, and a summer fellowship in 1972 with Bodil at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine, resulted in a lifelong interest in the mechanisms underlying whole body salt and water homeostasis. This led Dale, by degrees, from studies in erythrocytes, frog skin, blastocysts and principal cells of the renal collecting duct to his most recent work on the ion-transport pathways involved in migration and proliferation of glioma cells.

At MDIBL, Dale met Dan Tosteson, who became his doctoral adviser at Duke University. The early 1970s at Duke were remarkable for the collection of young, enthusiastic scientists involved in physiological research, including Sid Simon, Ramon Latorre, George Somjen, Toshio Narahashi, Bob Gunn, Clint Joiner, Bob Balaban, Dave Shoemaker and Peter Lauf, along with John Parker, Art Finn and Luis Reuss just up the road at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Added slightly later to the mix was Dale’s friend from Case, Pete, who was a postdoc in Tosteson’s lab.

Tosteson, who could reduce students and postdocs and, as Dale later said, even long-established chairs of physiology departments to quivering masses of jelly by the pure force of his intellect, jointly supervised Dale and Pete, although he passed on responsibility later to Laz Mandel, who became one of Dale’s lifelong mentors and friends.

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Dale was my mentor as a doctoral student. In other ways he was like the older brother I never had. He was one of the most influential people in my life both scientifically and personally. Not a day passes that I don't think of him. CM

 

I knew Dale for over 25 years as a colleague at UAB and later just as a friend. In addition to respecting Dale as a scientist I came to know him as a kind and generous person. My fondest memory of Dale is the enthusiasm he showed each year in a course we offered Birmingham City School teachers called BioTeach. He was alway a favorite. I will miss seeing Dale. Stephen Hajduk, Professor and Head, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

 

 

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