Published August 29, 2011
William T. Ruyechan, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, died of cancer Aug. 15 at his home in East Amherst, N.Y. He was 60.
An internationally recognized scientist, Ruyechan focused his research on molecular biology and pathogenesis in Varicella Zoster virus (VZV) and the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei. He and his collaborators identified two novel RNA binding proteins in T. brucei, which causes a form of African sleeping sickness in people and domestic cattle.
“Bill was responsible for much of our knowledge of the major growth-controlling protein in VZV, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles,” said John Hay, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. “His lab laid groundwork for the development of the chickenpox and shingles vaccines now in general use in the U.S.
“Among his peers, Bill was very highly regarded as an innovative, interactive scientist whose views were widely sought and whose work was accepted as state-of-the-art.”
In May 2011, Ruyechan received the Stockton Kimball Award, the school’s highest honor given to a researcher in recognition of scientific accomplishments and service to UB.
A Pittsburgh native, Ruyechan earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and his master’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the University of Illinois.
He worked at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., before coming to UB in 1992 as a professor of microbiology and immunology.
In 1995, he was appointed honorary professor of biology at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, Rajahstan, India.
Beginning in 2006, Ruyechan served as associate chair and interim chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
At UB, he trained more than 25 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
He published more than 115 papers and book chapters and served on the editorial boards of the most prestigious journal in his field, Journal of Virology, and Immunological Investigations.
Ruyechan founded the Buffalo Shotokan Karate Club in 1992. He was also an accomplished photographer and a wine connoisseur. He was a member of the Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge 718 and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Swormville.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Noreen Williams, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology; two daughters, Alicia Guthro and Maura; and a brother, the Rev. Matthew.