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Upstate's second president, Lewis William Bluemle, Jr., dies at 98

The official Upstate Medical University portrait of Lewis William Bluemle, Jr.

The second president of Upstate Medical University has died at age 98 at his home outside of Philadelphia, according to an obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lewis William Bluemle, Jr., served as president of Upstate from 1968 to 1974, which was described as a time of growth and change for the institution.

Bluemle earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1946 while enlisted in the Army. With the exception of a two-year period, beginning in 1948, when he served as assistant director to the Army Hepatic and Metabolic Unit at Valley Forge Hospital, Bluemle worked primarily with the University of Pennsylvania and its affiliated hospitals.

In 1968 Bluemle left his position as associate dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to become president of Upstate. During his tenure, Bluemle recruited several new department chairs, made major revisions to the curriculum and expanded research. He also established the Department of Family Practice. Bluemle left Upstate in 1974 to become president of the University of Oregon Health Services Center in Portland, Oregon. He retired as president of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in 1990, where he oversaw construction of a new hospital and research building, which was named the Bluemle Life Sciences Building in his honor.

Upstate awarded Bluemle with an honorary degree in 1992. According to “SUNY Upstate Medical University; A Pictorial History,” by Eric v.d. Luft, Upstate colleague and former dean of the College of Medicine, William J. Williams, wrote at the time that “what made him such an effective administrator was that he was an excellent listener. He was always able to put himself in the other person’s place and because of that he came up with thoughtful, well-reasoned positions… His short time in Syracuse will go down as the most ambitious faculty development period in the history of the center. By the time he left we had a new generation of faculty leadership in place.”

A 1990 doctorate of humane letters from Johns Hopkins describes him as “one of the leading lights of professional health education in United States, a craftsman of science and enduring relationships,” according to the obituary.

Bluemle is credited with establishing an early dialysis unit in the Philadelphia area. He went on to design and construct an artificial kidney and he and a partner patented a dialyzer in 1963, according to the obituary.

His obituary says his wife died in May and he is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

Click here to read the full obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer.