Memorial Resolution of the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the Death of Professor Emeritus Gerald C. Mueller

UW-Madison is one of the great research universities of the world. Standing in the middle of the Madison campus is the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, the first national cancer center to be placed on a university campus. We honor the memory of one of the founding members of McArdle's faculty — Gerry Mueller. His passion for research forged bonds with his research students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty colleagues, and cancer researchers in this country and abroad. The McArdle faculty meetings, dominated by research presentations, were Gerry's lifeblood, even after retirement when he continued to participate in the issues debated by the faculty. Reading the presentation summaries from his retirement apartment, he wrote:

"They made me feel like I was still sitting there at the Friday sessions. These meetings have served to assure the high quality research that credits McArdle. There is nothing like having to defend one's ideas and progress in front of your fellow faculty members. I only wish that I once again could be in the competition. I am working (i.e., slowly) on a paper that I may one day share with you. It deals with the cell specific targeting of drug delivery. P.S. Keep the McArdle image shining forever."

Gerald C. Mueller, the oldest of four brothers, was born May 22, 1920, in Centuria, Wisconsin, to Marie K. Pape and Emil F. Mueller. Raised in St. Croix, Gerry attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an undergraduate, receiving a BS degree in medical science in 1943. As a pre-medical student, he worked part-time in the laboratory with Dr. Harold P. Rusch, studying the biochemical actions of chemical carcinogens and ultraviolet radiation and developing his fascination with and love of research. He attended medical school at the University of Wisconsin, received an MD degree in 1946, and carried out his internship at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. Still drawn to research, he returned to

Wisconsin in 1947 to pursue a PhD degree in physiology. Upon graduation in 1950, Dr. Mueller accepted a position as assistant professor in oncology, joining Harold P. Rusch, Van R. Potter, James and Elizabeth Miller, Charles Heidelberger, and Roswell K. Boutwell. Those founding faculty members established the collegial atmosphere and set the standard for excellence in research in McArdle.

Dr. Mueller's range of interests and enthusiasm for science were boundless. Radiating out from his first love of basic research, he saw the "big picture." His strong medical background allowed him to help his colleagues at Wisconsin and beyond to bridge the gap between basic and clinical research and patient care. He recognized how human diseases, such as cancer and alcoholism, wreak havoc on people's lives and sought ways to prevent and treat disease. His wife Alice's 30-year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia only increased his devotion and drive to eliminate cancer.

For 40 years, Dr. Mueller pursued his specific scientific interests — from the molecular processes regulating animal cell replication and differentiation, to the role of phosphatidylethanol synthesis in the disease of alcoholism. He was a pioneer in the development of a practical method for the synchronization of mammalian cell populations and was one of the first investigators to show that in each cell cycle the units of DNA replicate in the same time sequence. In his studies with the inhibitors actinomycin and puromycin, Dr. Mueller was the first to provide evidence in whole animals for the importance of transcriptional events in mediating the actions of steroid hormones such as estrogen. He published close to 200 scientific articles.

Dr. Mueller also significantly affected cancer policy in this country, participating on numerous study sections, advisory committees, and editorial and review boards throughout his career. He served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for both the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as president and member of the board of directors for the American Association for Cancer Research, and as a member of the board of directors of the American Cancer Society. In the middle of his career, Gerry served as the assistant vice resident for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Mueller trained over 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, including three who became faculty members at UW-Madison (Jack Gorski, Roland Rueckert, and Douglass Tormey), and others who held positions at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), at NIH, in industry, and at several other academic institutions throughout the world. He took a personal interest in each of his trainees and followed their careers with great pride.

Dr. Mueller became professor emeritus of oncology at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research in 1991, but remained active in the department for more than a decade after that. In 2007 he received the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association Emeritus Faculty Award with his long-time colleague and friend Roswell Boutwell. A symposium honoring the research accomplishments of Drs. Boutwell and Mueller was held in Madison in 2008 with many former students and postdocs in attendance.

In addition to his infectious scientific enthusiasm and outstanding research and professional accomplishments, Gerry also had an enthusiasm for family, friends and colleagues. He personified a "work hard, play hard" ethic. Gerry, Alice, and their family vacationed extensively in exotic places around the world and enjoyed themselves tremendously. He loved music and played both piano and trumpet. Some of his outdoor hobbies included bow and arrow hunting, hiking, and tennis. Canoeing in Ontario was a much loved summer family tradition, as was relaxing in the pastoral landscape on his small farm near Spring Green. He was genuinely warm and welcoming to his students and colleagues, often the first person in the department to invite a new assistant professor to his home for dinner. He contributed greatly to the friendly, supportive environment of the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. Gerry Mueller was an easy and stimulating person to meet and know.

Gerry's passion for research, people, and travel was centered around the warmth of his 65-year marriage to Alice, who passed away in April 2008. Before he died on November 7, 2010, he commented "There is no need for memorial festivities. Tell everyone I'm out of town, gone to be with Alice!" Nonetheless, friends and family will pay tribute to Gerry on the 91st anniversary of his birth. Gerry is survived by three children, Robyn, Gregory, and Christopher, three grandchildren, three younger brothers, and many friends.

Memorial Committee

  • Roswell K. Boutwell
  • Richard R. Burgess
  • William F. Dove, Chair
  • Henry C. Pitot
  • Bette Sheehan

UW-Madison Fac Doc 2268 – 2 May 2011