May 13, 2020

Benedict R. Lucchesi, MD, PhD (1933-2020)

It is with great sadness that we share with you the passing of our beloved colleague, Dr. Ben Lucchesi, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology.

Dr. Benedict R. Lucchesi passed away Tuesday, May 12, 2020 after a lengthy illness. He was born June 9, 1933, in the Bronx Borough of New York City, the son of Salvatore and Marietta (Caponetti) Lucchesi. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy in 1955 and a Master of Science in physiology in 1957 from St. John's University. He met his wife, Diana Mannarino, in pharmacy school at St. John's, and they married in June, 1957. The couple moved to Ann Arbor, MI where he completed his Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1961 and his medical degree in 1964, both at the University of Michigan. Dr. Lucchesi was appointed as an instructor at U-M in 1964 and rose through the ranks to professor in 1973. He served as director of the Upjohn Center for Clinical Pharmacology from 1978-1981, and as director of research for the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center from 1981-1986. A pioneer in the field of cardiovascular pharmacology, Dr. Lucchesi studied cardiac arrhythmia, coronary thrombosis, and myocardial reperfusion injury. Among his many accomplishments, he was one of the first scientists to describe the "stone heart" phenomenon, later called reperfusion injury, which occurs when blood flow is restored to the heart following certain surgical procedures. Dr. Lucchesi's work also led to the discovery that beta blocker drugs used to fight hypertension could also be used to treat heart arrhythmias. This class of drugs continues to be used today to substantially reduce mortality from heart attacks, heart rhythm disorders, and heart failure. He also jointly developed the first nitroglycerin patch to be approved by the FDA. He had a notable history of successfully securing research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. An outstanding teacher in both the classroom and the laboratory, he mentored a generation of undergraduate students, medical students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. He published over 600 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 50 book chapters and five books. He was also very proud of the stand he took as an expert witness against a pharmaceutical giant, which resulted in the drug Vioxx being pulled from the market. In 2016, Dr. Lucchesi was named professor emeritus of pharmacology. Dr. Lucchesi's extensive accolades included the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics' Torald Sollmann Award (2001), the U-M Medical School's Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), and the American Heart Association's Esprit de Coeur Award for Distinguished Achievement (2006). He was also inducted into the U-M Medical School League of Research Excellence (2014). The U-M honored the Lucchesi family with the creation of the Dr. Benedict and Diana Lucchesi Graduate Education Fellowship (2016) and endowed the Benedict R. Lucchesi Collegiate Professorship in Cardiovascular Pharmacology (2019). He was a member of St. Mary's Student Parish, Ann Arbor, and numerous medical societies and organizations including the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, the American Heart Association, and the American Physiological Society. Dr. Lucchesi is survived by his wife, Diana; sons, Thomas (Mary) of Westlake, OH, Richard (Lisa) and Steven of Ann Arbor, MI, John (Debra) of Lapeer, MI; daughter, Mary Smith of Malvern, PA; grandchildren, Ryan, Anthony, Joseph, Gina, Nicholas and Marco Lucchesi, Frank, Angela and Dominick Smith; brothers, Richard and Salvatore Lucchesi, and sister, Nancy Saffi. He was preceded in death by his parents. Services will be private due to the pandemic, with Father James Gartland officiating. Burial will follow in Arborcrest Memorial Park, Ann Arbor. Contributions in Dr. Lucchesi's memory may be made to the Dr. Benedict and Diana Lucchesi Graduate Education Fellowship or the Benedict R. Lucchesi Collegiate Professorship in Pharmacology. Checks may be mailed to: Michigan Medicine Office of Development, University of Michigan, 1000 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-6815. The family would like to thank Arbor Hospice and Erica Whiting for their care and compassion.