Peter Petrusz, MD, PhD, a professor in the UNC School of Medicine for almost 40 years, died at UNC Hospice in Pittsboro, NC, on Aug. 27, 2017, at the age of 78. He passed away peacefully in the presence of his beloved wife, Sophia Petrusz.
Dr. Petrusz was born in 1939 in Győr, Hungary and spent his early childhood in Székesfehérvár, Hungary, where his parents were teachers. In his youth, Dr. Petrusz coped with the harsh realities of post-war communist life in Hungary by escaping into intellectual pursuits. An avid chess player and reader, he developed a particular interest and aptitude in the study of chemistry.
After completing his medical degree and compulsory military service in Hungary, Petrusz obtained his PhD at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1972, Dr. Petrusz was recruited by H. Stanley Bennett, then chair of the anatomy department at the UNC School of Medicine, which later became the department of cell biology and physiology.
Upon arrival, Dr. Petrusz immersed himself in the vibrant, collegial and intellectual atmosphere of the UNC School of Medicine, and the wider scientific community in Chapel Hill. In recent years, his family said he observed with pride that his generation of scientists had laid a solid foundation for much of the growth in facilities and reputation that the university has enjoyed in recent years.
Dr. Petrusz published extensively throughout his career and enjoyed keeping up with the newest developments in cell biology and neurobiology. Early in his career, he focused his research on control mechanisms in reproductive endocrinology. His later research expanded the field’s knowledge of the roles of hormones in the growth, development, and maintenance of various neural structures. His contributions in expanding the use of immunohistochemistry and light microcopy to visualize the locations of proteins had implications across other biological disciplines.
He also enjoyed sharing ideas and techniques with others in his field and was committed to training the next generation of scientists and medical students. In the 1980s, he published a four-volume series, Techniques in Immunocytochemistry with Gillian R. Bullock. The book became a widely used reference for biological researchers around the world.
He leaves his wife of 25 years, Dr. Sophia (Sirokay) Petrusz, his son Robert and his wife Christine (Muth) Petrusz, and their children Elizabeth and Caroline, his daughter Catherine Petrusz and her husband David Foster, all of Durham NC, his wife’s daughter Dr. Ágnes (Supala) Berger and her husband Dr. Ken Berger and their children, Michael and Michelle of Toronto, Canada, and many friends both personal and professional.
Dr. Petrusz was dedicated to his students and the love of science. Among his academic honors was his election to the Hungarian Academy of Science as an external member in 2004. His name will be engraved in the Memorial Grove of UNC and in the hearts of his family, friends, colleagues and students.
Dr. Petrusz was a long-time member of the HMAA, served as President of the Association. He was the recipient of the HMAA Lifetime Achievement Award.