Obituary: David C. Beebe, 70, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences

David C. Beebe, PhD, the Janet and Bernard Becker Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, died at his home in St. Louis on Friday, March 27, 2015, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 70.


A longtime leader in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Beebe headed the Cataract Research Center. His research focused on the early development of the eye and the causes and potential prevention of nuclear cataracts and glaucoma.

Also a professor of cell biology and physiology, he was the recipient of a School of Medicine Distinguished Educator award in 2014. Also last year, he was honored with the creation of an endowed lectureship in his name.

“The Dr. David C. Beebe Lecture celebrates the scientific curiosity, translational research, mentorship and passion that Dr. Beebe brought to our field, as well as the 20 years of service he brought to the department,” said Todd Margolis, MD, PhD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor and Chairman of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “He made outstanding contributions to research and to the education of young scientists. The department will miss his expertise and the wisdom and insight he provided to his trainees.”

Beebe joined the Washington University faculty in 1995. During his tenure, he was very involved in the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), serving in various capacities over the past 20 years. He served on its board of trustees from 1996-2002, and in 2000 was elected the organization’s president. He also served as editor in chief of the ARVO journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Beebe recently was chosen to receive ARVO’s highest service award, the annual Joanne G. Angle Award. His wife will accept the honor on his behalf at the organization’s annual meeting in May.

Beebe earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences at Brown University. He then earned a doctorate in biology at the University of Virginia, where he received the Andrew Fleming award as the outstanding graduate student in biology.

After a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he took a faculty position in the Department of Anatomy at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He eventually became chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology and was chosen by the medical students to receive two Golden Apple Awards for outstanding teaching during his tenure there.

Beebe is survived by his wife of 37 years, Anne-Elizabeth; three children, Peter (Fay Bouman), Colin (Jennifer Sullivan) and Jessica (Philip Quitslund); and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. May 16 in Connor Auditorium in the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center on the Medical Campus.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. David C. Beebe Lectureship Endowment Fund; Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine; Attn: Kevin Largent; 7425 Forsyth Blvd., Campus Box 1247; St. Louis, Missouri 63105; or to ARVO.

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