01 May 2012

In memoriam: Galen B. Toews

I'm going to step away from the usual content of this blog to pay a brief tribute to the passing of an old and dear friend who died several months ago.  Here are some excerpts from his obituary:
Galen B. Toews served as Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Michigan since 1987. Under his guidance, the Division grew from 10 to 47 faculty members bringing broad expertise in clinical care, teaching, and research. His own research laboratory made many contributions toward understanding how lungs resist infection and avoid becoming scarred following injury...

Galen was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 26, 1945, the oldest son of Rosa (Voth) Toews and David A. Toews, who was then serving in a Civilian Public Service camp (CPS) as a conscientious objector during World War II. One month after Galen was born the Toews returned to their family farm in Kremlin, Oklahoma where they lived for the remainder of Galen's childhood. Galen referred frequently to the many life lessons he learned while raising a flock of sheep on the farm...

A keen naturalist, Galen loved hiking and walking in the mountains of Colorado at an altitude of 9600 feet and above. He carried his wildflower books with him on every hike in order to identify anything he did not recognize and was creating a map of his 2 acre Colorado property locating all the indigenous wildflowers on the site...

Galen was a man of strong faith. He was a life-long member of the Mennonite Church and was actively involved at Shalom Community Church, a Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregation in Ann Arbor, MI. He embraced the Mennonite ethics of peace and justice and intentionally worked to create a pulmonary division based on the Mennonite ideal of community where people collaborated and worked together. He was also a founding member of the Dallas Peace Center (1981), a non-profit organization dedicated to peace education, peace research and action from a Christian perspective. This venture was one of his proudest accomplishments.
I met Galen when we were postdoctoral fellows in Dallas, Texas, sharing clinical responsibilities and working in the same laboratory.  He and I were co-authors in 1978 on the first paper we ever published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (disproving the antiphagocytic effect of protein A during the clearance of Staph aureus from murine lungs).  I moved on to Kentucky and he to Michigan, but we kept in touch for twenty more years.  He had a brilliant scientific mind and a warm, good-natured, and good-humored spirit.  It's very sad when the world loses someone like Galen Toews.


  1. He sounds like the kind of person that the world needs in abundance. Condolences to his family and to you on losing a cherished friend.

  2. My sincere condolences. Your tribute is a profound acknowledgment to the power of friendship.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I know. I'm not trying to keep my identity a strict secret. I just don't want the blog to become one of those "lookwhatIhadforlunch" personal blogs.

      I WAS a college English major, btw. Went on to biology research in a sort of Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none life story...

  4. My condolences on the loss of your friend. He sounds like a fascinating person.

  5. I'm sorry about your friend.

    I've recently joined a Mennonite church because of someone like your friend and the strong commitment to peace and justice within the church.


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