Dr. Claud S. Rupert, DNA Scientist, Founding Faculty Member, Dies
Feb. 10, 2017
Dr. Claud S. Rupert, in his UT Dallas office, joined the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies in 1965. In addition to being a member of the biology faculty, he was dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from 1975 to 1980. He also served as interim vice president for academic affairs and an associate vice president.
Dr. Claud Stanley Rupert, who conducted seminal research in the field of light-activated DNA repair and was one of the founding faculty members of The University of Texas at Dallas, died Feb. 2 in Dallas. He was 97.
In addition to being a highly regarded researcher, Rupert mentored numerous students, including Dr. Aziz Sancar, who earned his PhD in molecular and cell biology in 1977 and was the first UT Dallas alumnus to win the Nobel Prize, in chemistry in 2015.
“Dr. Rupert was the founding father of the field of DNA repair. I was fortunate to have him as my mentor not just during my graduate work at UT Dallas but throughout my career. I owe him more than anyone else for my academic successes at UTD and beyond,” said Sancar, who is the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
“Moreover, he was a role model for me for charity and human decency. After I left UTD, I remained in contact with him for the next 40 years and visited with him during the Christmas holidays. I talked to him on the phone a few short hours before he passed. He was like a father to me, and I will miss him very much.”
Rupert was one of the original scientists who established the Laboratory for Molecular Studies at the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW), which was a private research organization established by Erik Jonsson, Cecil Green and Eugene McDermott, the founders of Texas Instruments. The institute began its research operations in 1962, and would become The University of Texas at Dallas in 1969.
Rupert joined the GRCSW’s research arm, the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (SCAS), in 1965 from Johns Hopkins University, where he had earned his PhD in physics and was an associate professor in the biophysics department. It was at Johns Hopkins that he began his work on enzymes in bacteria that are activated by visible light and are involved with repairing damaged DNA caused by ultraviolet light.
Dr. Rupert visited UT Dallas last November to celebrate the Founders Building's designation as a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology. Rupert is one the University's research pioneers pictured on the commemorative plaque.
In 1964, Rupert received the Finsen Medal from the International Union of Photobiology, which recognizes distinguished photobiologists for their contributions to the photosciences. He was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1966. In the 1970s, Rupert was a member of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Impacts of Stratospheric Change, which considered the effects of changes in the ozone layer.
In addition to being a member of the biology faculty at UT Dallas, Rupert was dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from 1975 to 1980. He also served as interim vice president for academic affairs and an associate vice president.
“Stan was a genuinely wonderful human being,” said Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and a longtime friend. “He was a humanistic scientist, a great dean, and he loved teaching.”
Along with three of his colleagues, Rupert started the longest-running cultural tradition at UT Dallas. In 1976, the group began the Annual Messiah Sing, which featured readings, carols and selections from Handel’s “Messiah.” The event has evolved into a family-friendly Holiday Sing held every year at the end of the fall semester.
“Stan was one of those people who calms the world down and makes it think a little more creatively and positively,” said Kratz, who holds the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professorship.
“Stan Rupert defined the term ‘Gentleman and Scholar.' He, as much as anyone, set the tone of excellence at UT Dallas that we still treasure. ”
“Stan Rupert defined the term ‘Gentleman and Scholar,’” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president at UT Dallas. “He, as much as anyone, set the tone of excellence at UT Dallas that we still treasure. His research was fundamentally important and groundbreaking, and his persona radiated good humor and a deep grasp of reality, tempered with charity. I regret that he retired from UT Dallas as I arrived, so that my interactions with him, often at performances of the Dallas Symphony, were much less frequent than I could have wished.”
Claud Stanley Rupert was born in Porterville, California, on Feb. 24, 1919, and grew up in the small farming town of Exeter. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1941 from the California Institute of Technology, he worked for Lockheed. During World War II, Rupert served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, where he helped evaluate radio and radar gear installed on ships. He often noted that no one shot at him during his four years in the service.
After leaving the Navy in 1946, he began graduate studies in physics at Johns Hopkins, where, despite having failed an upper-level physics course at CalTech, he earned his PhD in 1951. He held fellowships and faculty positions in the biophysics department before joining SCAS. He retired from UT Dallas in 1992.
During his retirement, he and his wife of over 62 years, Clara, volunteered at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Baylor Hospital to hold infants.
In addition to his wife, Rupert is survived by their daughter, Linda Rupert; son, Carl Rupert; and granddaughters Aisha Ansano and Naomi Ansano.
Funeral services will be Saturday, March 4, at 1 p.m. at First United Lutheran Church, 6202 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas. The family requests that guests wear bright colors, and send no flowers. Charitable donations can be made to the Center for Children and Families and the Eugene McDermott Library, both at UT Dallas.