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William Charles Buss ’60

Cliff Sather ’61 and Bill Bus ’60

December 25, 2018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of esophageal cancer.

Bill was a Reed “dropout,” but he loved and benefited from his time here, and Reed may proudly claim him as one of its own.  Eventually becoming a professor of pharmacology at the University of New Mexico, for more than 40 years he was a respected researcher and professor, and a beloved teacher and mentor to generations of medical students.

He was raised in Vancouver, Washington, and after leaving Reed served in the National Guard and worked a variety of short-term jobs. Committing himself to pursuing medical science, he enrolled at Portland State University and got a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He received a PhD in pharmacology in 1971 from what is now Oregon Health & Science University and commenced a lifelong professional career at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in the department of pharmacology. He served as chairman of the department for 10 years, published more than 30 scientific papers and book chapters, mentored generations of medical students, and received faculty awards for teaching excellence. Although he retired in 1998, he loved teaching and continued to teach part-time until just a couple of months before his death.

Early in his career, Bill moved to the little town of Corrales, a few miles northwest of Albuquerque, where he purchased a half acre on a hillside with an expansive view of the Rio Grande Valley and Sandia Mountains. Here he designed the charming adobe home in which he would spend the rest of his life. Establishing a small winery on the property, he single-handedly produced award-winning wines and served as a mentor to aspiring winemakers and as a certified judge of wines in regional competitions. In retirement, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to several major pursuits. A voracious reader of both fiction and nonfiction, he loved the natural world as a lifelong rock climber and advocate for wilderness preservation. Bill took courses in pastel painting from renowned artists and became a prolific and accomplished painter himself, receiving awards for his pastels of New Mexico landscapes. He traveled and trekked with intrepid companions for many weeks every year, mainly on major hiking trails in Europe, but also in Turkey, Russia, and Nepal.

Married and divorced twice, Bill is survived by his brother, Jim, and by his son, Bill D. Buss. The younger Bill recalls his father describing the dread that he experienced at Reed in anticipation of biweekly “paper conferences” with his humanities instructors. “He told me that he often felt awful after having his work subjected to such severe scrutiny, but he also told me that these sessions were the best instruction imaginable for learning how to write.  What he learned in that class provided him with many of the skills he needed for his career in science—drafting and revising grant proposals, papers, book chapters, and abstracts.”

Bill loved Reed and benefited greatly from his time here. As his son observes, he “will be sorely missed by all who admired his compassion, humility, wide knowledge and wisdom, communication skills, sense of humor, and fearlessness.” —Contributed by Richard Morgan ’60

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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