Colleagues remember revered scientist with lectureship in his honor

By Rachel Skei Donihoo

Friends, family members and colleagues of late UT Southwestern pharmacology professor Dr. David Garbers have united to create a lectureship in his name at the medical center.

Dr. Garbers, who directed the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences at UT Southwestern, died in 2006 at age 62. Gifts made in his honor have created the David L. Garbers, Ph.D., Annual Lecture in Biomedical Science.

Dr. David Garbers

His distinguished scientific career spanned more than 30 years. His research focused on the molecular basis of fertilization, and his studies of germ cells — egg and sperm — have led to key insights into reproductive biology, as well as opened possible avenues toward new contraceptives and ways to increase fertility.

“David was a marvelously talented and intuitive scientist, and we greatly miss him,” said Dr. Alfred Gilman, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School. “He followed a scientific trail like a bloodhound, and it led him from the fertilization of sea urchins to cardiovascular function in mammals.

“This lectureship, which will allow us to bring in some of the brightest researchers in the country, is a fitting tribute to a scientist who had such a thirst for knowledge.”

Dr. Garbers was born in 1944 in La Crosse, Wis., where he grew up on a farm. A childhood interest in science eventually led him to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science in 1966, a master’s in reproductive biology in 1970 and a doctorate in biochemistry in 1972.

Dr. Garbers began his career in 1974 at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and became a full professor there in 1982. In 1976 he was appointed as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a position he continued to hold while at UT Southwestern. He was one of the longest-serving researchers with HHMI, a philanthropic organization that promotes biomedical research and funds about 300 investigators across the country. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1990.

Dr. Garbers was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992 and to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1993. He also was a member of the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science (TAMEST).

“For a scientist of his stature, he also was unpretentious and easygoing, which made him one of the most sought-after mentors for junior and senior faculty in our department,” said Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chairman of pharmacology. “He was a main reason why many of us came to UT Southwestern, and his impact is evidenced by the many people who came forward to create this lectureship in his honor.”