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Friday, February 4, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dr. Russell Weiser, UW immunologist

Seattle Times staff reporter

When Dr. Russell Weiser, one of the founders of the University of Washington School of Medicine, retired in 1977 after teaching there for 43 years, he set up an annual lectureship at the medical school in his speciality, immunology.

Over the years, due to funding and administrative problems, lectures were intermittent.

That is changing. Shortly after Dec. 31, 1999, when Dr. Weiser died in Aptos, Calif., at age 93, the Department of Immunology announced that later this year it will hold the first Russell S. Weiser lecture since 1995. The department is seeking donations for future lectures.

Kathleen Bracy, the department administrator, said it was a coincidence the two happened at about the same time; Dr. Weiser was not in touch with members of the department.

But he was apparently not out of their thoughts. Christopher Wilson, chairman of the department, said when he was planning the lecture he reflected on what Dr. Weiser wanted when he started the endowment.

"Russ and Rae (Weiser, his wife of 68 years) . . . clearly wanted to devote their personal wealth to see that the lives of the students are enriched," Wilson said. "This (lecturer) will be a speaker whose purpose will not only enrich the community, but will in particular play an additional role with interacting with the students."

Sandra Rappaport, Dr. Weiser's daughter, said her father would be happy to know the lecture was returning on an annual basis.

"I know that's what he would have wanted," she said. "He was a passionate teacher, very dedicated to his students."

Dr. Weiser was born Sept. 28, 1906, in Grimes, Iowa. He grew up in the Midwest and attended North Dakota State University, where he met and wooed his wife-to-be. They eloped and moved to Seattle, where he studied bacteriology at the UW. He received his Ph.D. there in 1934.

Dr. Weiser was also an avid runner and tried out for the 1936 Olympic track team. He didn't make the team, but the experience wasn't a total loss. After studying the perspiration and urine of other runners, he co-wrote a research paper on the effects of exercise on renal excretion.

After World War II, when soldiers returned home with strange illnesses, physicians in Seattle were concerned they would have difficulty treating them. The state needed a medical school, they argued.

At least one of those early planning meetings was held at the Montlake home of Dr. Weiser. He also traveled the country looking at other schools' curricula.

"He was a very strong influence in the field of immunology," said Eugene Nester, a former colleague. "He was a fine scientist."

Dr. Weiser and his wife also frequently invited students to their house for buffet dinners. "He sort of took them under his wing," said his daughter.

He wrote numerous research articles and three textbooks. In his spare time, he tended his garden and ballroom-danced with his wife.

He also is survived by two grandchildren.

His family requests donations in his memory be sent to the Russell S. Weiser Lectureship in Immunology, University of Washington Medical School, Department of Immunology, Box 35760, Seattle, WA 98105.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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