It is with great sadness that we announce that W. Edward (Ed) Highsmith, Jr., Ph.D., passed away suddenly in his home on Tuesday, May 22.
Dr. Highsmith earned a chemistry degree from UNC–Chapel Hill, a master's and doctorate degree in pathology and clinical chemistry from LSU, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor and UNC Hospitals. A career educator and lab researcher, he taught genetics and pathology at UNC, The University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Highsmith joined Mayo Clinic in 2002 and served as Co-Director of the Genomics Laboratory and Program Director for the Clinical Molecular Genetics Fellowship. He was a beloved mentor to multiple generations of undergraduate and graduate students, residents and fellows, and was cherished by trainees, staff, and colleagues alike for his relaxed yet incisive teaching style, his passion for life and all things science, and his incredible sense of humor. Dr. Highsmith's colleagues remember his kind and welcoming personality as well as the bridges he built between the Division of Laboratory Genetics and Genomics and the Division of Hematopathology.
Dr. Highsmith had a prolific career in molecular genetics, publishing hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, books, book chapters, and abstracts, and making numerous presentations at national and international conferences for various professional societies. He held active leadership positions in a number of these organizations, such as the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and the Association for Molecular Pathology. He was a popular speaker at meetings worldwide and was equally popular for his pre- and post-meeting socializing.
In addition to cystic fibrosis, familial amyloidoses, and mitochondrial disorders, “genetics would make a fine hobby,” he would often say. Dr. Highsmith’s other interests included history, SCUBA diving, UNCA Bulldog and Carolina Tarheel basketball, bragging on his niece and nephew, and hosting Scotch whiskey tastings and large mammal roasts for colleagues and friends. There was hardly a person whom he came across that he didn’t instantly befriend, and he could always be counted upon for a brilliant thought, a selfless gesture, an instant smile, a hearty laugh, and a colorful story or two, often all at the same time.
Dr. Highsmith's family pays special tribute to his network of friends and colleagues at Mayo and across the country.
For memorial tributes, the family invites consideration of Ed’s three charities: The UMDF (United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation) located at 8085 Saltsburg Road Suite 201, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15239; UNC Asheville’s Allene and William E. Highsmith Distinguished Visiting Scholar Fund; and the Allene Highsmith Memorial Endowment, UNC Asheville, One University Heights, Asheville NC 28804 (firstname.lastname@example.org).