Previous Members Pass Away

Louis S. Harris, PhD

June 10, 2019

Louis S. Harris, Ph.D., who served on the faculty of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine for 44 years, died on June 10, 2019.

During his tenure, Harris helped lead the rise of the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology into national prominence. He served as department chair for two decades and also served as associate vice president for health sciences at VCU, and oversaw National Institutes of Health grants focused on research in drug abuse from the earliest days of his time at VCU.

A man of science, he had nearly 300 journal publications to his credit, and his findings have shaped our understanding of opioid and cannabinoid pharmacology as well as pain management. Dr. Harris leaves a proud legacy of national prominence in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, where it has been most recently ranked 16th nationally in federal funding.  This ranking reflects VCU’s strengths in neurosciences and addictions, where we rank 11th in funding from the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and 16th in funding from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Harris always espoused an inspirational vision, and his and his family’s generosity will be felt at VCU for generations through endowed funds that support programs, faculty and students on both campuses. When you look around you, you’ll see his long-lasting influence and his compassion for his community. A patron of the arts, he purchased many creative works from VCU Arts students that are displayed around campus for our inspiration and enjoyment.

“First and foremost, Lou was an outstanding personal friend,” said Dr. Bill Dewey, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and longtime friend and colleague of Harris.  “He was also true friend’ to this university through his leadership in research, administration and philanthropy. He will be greatly missed.”

Joseph M. Moerschbaecher, III, PhD

July 1, 2021

Joseph M. Moerschbaecher, III, PhD, who had recently retired as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, passed away July 1, 2021, from complications of esophageal cancer.

The son of the late Geraldine (Stack) Moerschbaecher and Joseph M. Moerschbaecher Jr., Joe was born February 12, 1949, in South Bend, Indiana.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at Loyola University, Chicago. While still in school, Joe was a research associate in behavioral pharmacology at Abbott Laboratories. He received a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the American University in Washington, DC, and then worked as a research associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. After Joe completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Pharmacology at Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, he joined the faculty as a research assistant professor. LSU Health Sciences Center recruited him, and he joined its faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics in 1983.

His remarkable nearly four-decade career at LSU Health Sciences Center was filled with visionary leadership and accomplishment. He rose through the ranks as an associate and full professor to lead the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and in 1991, he was also appointed Co-Director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence, which he helped found. In 1998, Joe was appointed Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. He led Academic Affairs and the graduate school on both the New Orleans and Shreveport campuses as Shreveport was under LSU Health New Orleans’ administration at that time.

Joe was extensively published in peer-reviewed journals. He also wrote numerous chapters in textbooks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded him millions of dollars in research grant funding throughout his career. He was an award-winning teacher, continuous NIH study section participant, and a member of almost 40 different LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans committees. Joe also played a key role in founding the LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.  He served on the boards of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and the Louisiana Cancer Research Center, as well as the Chair of the Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund Planning Committee. Joe served in multiple capacities for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and from 2010-2012, was the President of the Behavioral Pharmacology Society.

William Joseph Cooke, PhD

November 4, 2021

Dr. William J. Cooke died November 4, 2021 after a hard fought battle against cancer. Born in Newark, NJ to William J. and Margaret Eileen Cooke, September 15, 1940. Bill was predeceased by his parents, brother Gregory and sister Dorothy

He graduated from Siena College in Loudonville, NY with a degree in Biology, a Masters of Science degree from The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY, and a PhD in Pharmacology from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY. He did post-doctoral research at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH before receiving a position in the Pharmacology Department at The University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA.

Bill and Linda moved to Virginia Beach in 1977 for him to begin a 35 year career at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA, where he became chairman of the Pharmacology Department, and Associate Dean for Research. He was an active member of the Bayside Lion’s Club for many years serving as president for 2 terms.

Bill loved working with wood and would spend many satisfying hours in his backyard workshop building beautiful furniture. He always wanted to build a boat and when he completed the wooden sea kayak, he realized the greatest joy was not the paddling but the project itself. Bill loved a good joke but the man could never retell the same joke without saying “what was it again?” He had an infectious laugh and everyone who met him, loved him.