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Environmental Factor, December 2012

Former NIEHS pharmacologist Larry Hart remembered

By Eddy Ball

Former NIEHS pharmacologist Larry Hart

Hart flashed his characteristic smile during his retirement party in 1999. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

His many friends and colleagues at NIEHS and NTP remembered, with fondness, colleague Larry Hart, Ph.D., who died Oct. 22 at the Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill, N.C., following complications from a fall. Hart, who was 79, retired in 1999 after 30 years of service with NIH, NIEHS, and NTP.

A number of current and former employees of NIEHS and NTP shared their memories of Hart, in the days following news of his death and at his memorial service Nov. 2 at The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill (see text box). Toxicologist James Huff, Ph.D., was the first at NIEHS to hear of Hart’s death and set the tone for a long list of glowing praise. “He was one of the very best,” Huff wrote, “a wonderful caring friend, an all-round decent person who joined NTP in the beginning and was clearly instrumental in its early and continued success.”

NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., recalled, “I often saw Larry after I left NIEHS [in 1989] at cultural events in Chapel Hill — always the big smile and how are you. He’ll be missed.” In a similar vein, former policy analyst Tom Hawkins reflected on Hart’s engaging presence. “Larry Hart was a wise and gentle soul, and one fine scientist as well — incisive, deliberative, and disciplined,” Hawkins said.

Many others mentioned his optimism, engaging ever-present smile, insightfulness, willingness to help, and uncompromising advocacy of public health.

From a small town in Iowa to the Research Triangle in North Carolina

Although he was born in Los Angeles, Hart moved with his family to Le Mars, Iowa at a young age and lived there until he entered the United States Army in 1954, after completing his first year of college. Following discharge, he attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, earning a B.S. in pharmacy in 1960 and a Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1964.

Hart held a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and continued his work as a research scientist at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., prior to a short interval of work in the private sector as a pharmacology section chief at Imperial Chemical Industries in Wilmington, Del.

Hart returned to federal government research in 1972 with NIEHS and later NTP, where he was serving, among other scientific efforts, as executive secretary of the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors at the time of his retirement. He also lectured as an adjunct assistant professor in the department of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Hart is survived by his wife of 55 years, Martha; son David Hart and wife Anne Yoder; son Thomas Hart; former daughter-in-law Amy Hart; and son-in-law Donald Tomlinson. Also surviving are grandchildren Maggie Hart, Seth Hart, Callie Hart, Alexandra Tomlinson, and Jessica Tomlinson; and step grandson, Dylan Blankenship.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial contributions be sent to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill, 101 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517; The Chapel of the Cross, 304 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514; or to the Resident Assistance Fund, Carol Woods Retirement Community, 750 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.

Comments on a life well-lived from friends at NIEHS and NTP

“Larry was one the most decent human beings I had interactions with here at NIEHS, both at the time when he was in Laboratory of Pharmacology and later with NTP.” — Raj Chhabra, Ph.D.

"Larry Hart was an integral part of many NIEHS and NTP programs, particularly NTP Report of Carcinogens. We were lucky to have such a great man as our colleague.” — June Dunnick, Ph.D.

“I was thinking of Larry and Jim Fouts the other day when I had a question that I wished that I could have asked them. I have good memories [of them both].” — Jef French, Ph.D.

“That is indeed very sad news. I remember Larry being in an office next to mine when I was still in my early years at NIEHS. He was always willing to talk or help with any problems I came across, even though he didn’t work in the same group as I did. Larry had a wonderful smile and welcoming personality that was greatly appreciated not only by me, but also by many others who would often stop by to see him. — Bill Jirles.

"Larry was a terrific person and always settled and enjoyable with that big smile.” — Ken Korach, Ph.D.

“I agree with you all, there was no finer man than Larry Hart.” — Sandy Lange.

“When I think of Larry, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn't smiling. He certainly made the culture of NIEHS more inclusive and friendly.” — John McLachlan, Ph.D.

“He was so dear to me and had been a friend ever since I came to NIEHS. He was so helpful to me and always available when needed.” — Betty Mills

“I was fortunate to work closely with Larry, David Rall, and others for the first ten years of the NTP. Larry was looking forward to celebrating his 80th. Betty Mills and I met with him for lunch 3-4 times a year. Luckily for us, we had lunch with him a few weeks ago, and he was his usual self, full of energy, telling us about his children and grandchildren, and clearly excited about turning 80 in December.” — James Huff

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