Acting Dean Eugene C. Jorgensen

Eugene C. Jorgensen

Acting Dean, 1979-1981

Respected researcher, teacher, and leader Eugene Jorgensen served as acting dean from the fall of 1979 until early 1981, having been called upon to step into the role when Dean Jere Goyan was appointed Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Jorgensen was born in Hayward, California on October 22, 1923, and finished his high school education just at the outbreak of the Second World War. His studies at the University of California were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army; he later returned to the Berkeley campus of the University, where he earned both a bachelor of science and a master of science degree in chemistry. He then joined the graduate program at UCLA, and received his PhD in organic chemistry in 1953.

Offered an opportunity to pursue his interest in the biological aspects of organic chemistry, he immediately joined the faculty of the University of California College of Pharmacy, where he became recognized for his ability to unify a variety of apparently disparate areas. When the computer graphics laboratory was established, he was among the first faculty members to employ it in studying structure-activity relationships, using it to analyze activity of thyroxin analogs in terms of their structures. One of the country's leading researchers in thyroid hormones, he did groundbreaking work on thyroxin compounds, hoping to perfect a drug to help premature infants. He developed DIMIT in 1978, a drug with the ability to cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus in utero. He received the prestigious Achievement Award in medicinal chemistry from the American Pharmaceutical Association the same year. He made major contributions in synthesis and endocrinology, and in the application of molecular orbital theory and computer graphics to structure analysis. At the time of his death, he was working on the synthesis of polypeptides related to angiotensin, with the intent of analyzing the mechanism of hormonal action of this important molecule.

His contributions to the growth and development of the School of Pharmacy during the 1960s and 1970s—both scientifically and administratively—were widely recognized as playing a significant role in the emergence the School as the national leader in pharmacy education and pharmaceutical services research.

His “Dean's Page” messages in the Alumni Newsletter express his enthusiasm for close relationships among faculty and with students. Reflecting on the departing class of seniors, he writes, "Each June, as the senior class departs, we feel a loss that is like that felt when children leave home. A group of individuals has grown together and in the process this class has added to the store of tales and memories we all share of our School.” He encourages alumni to mentor new students of the incoming class, saying, "It would help them greatly in these early days if closer contacts could be established with you who have survived and benefited from the process."

When he died tragically at the hands of a home invader, he was eulogized for personal qualities as well as for his academic stature. After recounting how Jorgensen put him and his classmates at ease on their first day of instruction, Bob Day remembers that "his humor charmed us; his gentle, sensitive nature made us feel close. We invited him to our social functions, and, much to our delight, he came…he would not want us to ponder the moment of his death, but the breadth of his life. He would want to be remembered for what he was, the gentlest of humans, the smiling, pleasant, excellent teacher, and the precise scientist who opened exciting new vistas of research."