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Chancellor emeritus Leonard Laster dies at 92

UMass Medical School Communications

October 27, 2020
Leonard Laster, MD, in 1988

Leonard Laster, MD, chancellor emeritus at UMass Medical School, died on Oct. 25 at 92.

“We note with sadness the passing of a figure from the important shared history of this great institution and express our deepest condolences to his wife, Ruth Ann, and his family,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “His three years as chancellor, from 1987 to 1990, were important years in the early history of the Medical School and its clinical system, as the institution undertook several initiatives that continue to benefit us all today.”

Two of Dr. Laster’s most important achievements at UMMS were his work with faculty to establish the Program in Molecular Medicine, which presaged the interdisciplinary growth of what has become a key component of our world-famous research enterprise; and his work with the university and the commonwealth to gain approval for the Benedict Building—a legislatively approved expansion of the footprint for outpatient clinical services that required a number of reviews and a significant amount of persuasion.

“Both of these endeavors were important in the institution finding its footing as a forward-facing and innovative academic health sciences center and we should be grateful for his role in making them a reality,” said Chancellor Collins.

At the inception of his career in academic medicine, Laster, a graduate of Harvard and its medical school, held a research role at the National Institutes of Health for 18 years, eventually serving as chief of the section on gastroenterology of the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases. After administrative roles at the SUNY - Downstate Medical Center and the Oregon Health Sciences University, he was appointed as the successor to Robert Tranquada, MD, as chancellor at UMMS. When he left that role in 1990, he was succeeded by Aaron Lazare.

His obituary may be found here.