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A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Phil Needleman, PhD

Phil Needleman, PhD — Science & Innovation Thought Leader Dies at 85

Phil Needleman died when a 100 foot tree came crashing down on him while he was walking in the woods with his dog.  This freak accident was a mythical end to an Epic life.

He leaves behind his beloved wife, Sima, his daughter Nina, Son Larry (Lisa), Grandsons William and Joshua, brother Paul Needleman, sister Arlene Robbins, brother Alvin Needleman, many nieces and nephews, and hundreds of admiring friends and colleagues.

Starting out as a cross-eyed trouble maker in Brooklyn, he rose to international prominence for his world-class research in the academic world, in industry and in shaping future scientific innovation.  His research at Washington University and later in industry had a major impact on four important areas of scientific knowledge and patient care, improving the daily health and quality of life of millions of patients.  He cherished relationships, took great interest in people, was kind, generous, encouraging, challenging and mentoring.  He was advisor to anyone asking for guidance from disadvantaged students to Nobel laureates.  He delighted in others’ achievement and growth.  On a personal side, Phil and Sima’s love of 68 years was the stuff of fairy tales.  They cherished, loved, liked, respected, enjoyed and supported each other throughout their long lives together.  They were grateful for each other and prioritized their relationship. He always credited her for inspiring and supporting his achievements.  In recent years, as Sima’s Alzheimer’s advanced, Phil’s love and devotion to her were profound and inspirational. There was nothing more important to him than keeping her comfortable and as happy as possible; that he cannot continue doing this is the saddest part of his unexpected passing.

Scientifically, he was best known for Celebrex—both discovering the mechanism in his laboratory at Washington University and developing the drug Celebrex as Chief Scientist at Pharmacia, a drug that is used daily by millions of patients.  However, he was even more proud of other scientific achievements, especially discovering and elucidating an endocrine system that is characterized by the heart communicating with the kidneys, influencing blood pressure.  He received award after award for his major contributions, and even a couple weeks before his passing at 85, he delivered the major address at a national meeting of pharmaceutical industry leaders.

Phil was always grateful to his own mentors and for his opportunities, and he was extremely generous.  During the last several years, he focused on combining his immense expertise in biological sciences and vision, with funding.  It was his wish to create research centers that have the most promise for having high impact.  His goal was to fashion these centers in novel ways to avoid institutional obstacles and to make profound and rapid progress …’in my lifetime, and I’m old.’  As a result, he was the architect and funder of 3 such centers at Washington University and worked extremely closely with colleagues at the university until he was satisfied that they would achieve this lofty vision.

Those who knew him well and loved him will miss his personal qualities the most. Phil Needleman found life to be an alluring puzzle to solve, a quest.  His curiosity, enthusiasm, optimism and lack of self-imposed internal limits plus his enormous intellectual brilliance allowed him to have a lifetime of profound achievements.  But most importantly he was a mensch.  People knew him as a kind, thoughtful, generous person with great integrity.  He was also fun-loving and savored nature, the arts and Cardinal baseball.  He was an amazing teacher, colleague, friend, mentor and collaborator who experienced sympathetic joy, delighting in others’ achievements.  He prized his family—Sima, his kids, grandkids, siblings, nieces & nephews.  There is no other like him; he will be sorely missed.

Funeral will be on Monday April 1st at 2pm at Berger Memorial.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Washington University Innovation & Commercialization program or to Network for Strong Communities, for their Capacity Building Scholarship for small nonprofits.

https://wustl.advancementform.com/campaign/gifts-wustl-edu/give?sc=GA2024 Click: make your own designation.

Enter:  Needleman Program in Innovation and Commercialization

Network for Strong Communities website http://www.nscnow.org

To Donate go to https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_bugon_id=EZ686S83G74UL

To read Phil Needleman’s memoir, visit: https://bit.ly/Needleman-memoir

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