Beloved Emeritus Professor Passes Away

Gerold Grodsky (1927-2022)

Dr. Gerold Morton Grodsky (Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics and Medicine, UCSF, Emeritus, Active), science professor and bon vivant, who found humor in life, and provided warmth and support to friends and professional associates. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, January 18, 1927, the son of Louis G. Grodsky and Goldie (née) Feldacker. Died Thursday, December 29, 2022 surrounded by his loved ones, in San Francisco. He was 95 years old but lived until the end like a much younger man.


In grammar and high school, he was a committed and eclectic student, and a total nerd before the term was invented. He was still invited to all the parties because his father was a local soft-drink bottler, so Jerry supplied the free soda. Working with his father in the factory stimulated his early interest in chemistry. At age 17, he went to the University of Illinois with the V-12 Naval Officer Training Program and graduated Summa Cum Laude in Chemistry, as a naval Ensign. It was during this period that he expanded his world to include socializing and amateur theater, and, to his secret life-long delight, as head cheerleader at the University of Illinois. Dr. Grodsky obtained a master’s degree in Biochemistry at Illinois and his PhD in Biochemistry at Berkeley. While at Berkeley he met and fell in love with Kayla Deane Wolfe, who became his wife for 50 years before her death in 2003. After Berkeley, he, with his wife and less than one-year old daughter, Andrea, spent a year as a postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University, England. It was there that he expanded his interests in the chemistry and measurement of insulin.


While most other young Cambridge postdocs were looking for that first Assistant Professorship anywhere (this was before the Biotech explosion), Jerry and his wife put living in the SF Bay Area as their first priority. Despite his primary interest in insulin, he accepted a junior research position at the University of California at San Francisco to study bilirubin metabolism. Two years later, he joined the Metabolic Unit, a precursor to the current UCSF Diabetes Center. It was here that Dr. Grodsky returned to his primary interest in insulin and was exposed to issues of clinical diabetes. This resulted in him being a PhD basic scientist with the then rare opportunity to work across basic and clinical disciplines. In the early sixties, Dr. Grodsky developed the first precipitating radio immunoassay for insulin which permitted the accurate, specific measurement of insulin in biological fluids or tissues. His laboratory focused on the mechanisms involved in the synthesis, storage and secretion of insulin, with emphasis on the kinetics and quantitative relationships of these mechanisms. From these studies came the description of the fast and slow phases of insulin release, and the hypothesis that insulin is stored in compartments of differing availability for release. The fast phase of insulin release was shown to be vital in the maintenance of glucose balance, and its impairment is an early defect in Type II diabetes. This rapid insulin release is being incorporated into the design of algorithms for the Artificial Pancreas, to design faster acting beta-cell stimulants, and for fast absorbing insulin preparations. An early classic finding was that insulin levels were high in nondiabetic obesity while the underlying characteristic of Type 2 diabetes was impaired insulin secretion. Other areas of research activity included the demonstration of insulin auto-antibodies and their role in Type 1 Diabetes.


Dr. Grodsky published over 230 papers, spanning a period of 60 years. Many published over 50 years ago are still quoted, not because of historical interest, but for the currently applicable information they contain. D. Grodsky was an invited lecturer in more than 25 countries, and was a visiting Professor, for a year each, at the University of Geneva and the University of Paris (VII). He was the Founding Associate Editor of two diabetes journals. Dr. Grodsky was awarded the Rumbough Science Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) which further acknowledges his research contributions with the annual Grodsky Basic Science Award. He was the recipient of the RH Williams/R Levine Award, an NIH Merit Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award (UCSF). In 2010, UCSF created the Gerold Grodsky, PhD Chair in Diabetes Research. In 2013, he was awarded The Paul Lacy Lecture and Prize. Dr. Grodsky has consulted, or served on the advisory boards, of a variety of start-up biotechnology companies and large pharmaceutical companies, both in the US and abroad.


Dr. Grodsky formally retired as a Full Professor of Biochemistry & Medicine in 1990 but remained fully active at UCSF until 1991 when he closed his laboratory. He continued as a formal consultant to the Diabetes Center until his death. "I have been younger longer than almost anyone" was something he liked to say. Because of his pleasant demeanor and magnetic joyous personality, he was loved and admired by all that knew him. This is especially true of his students, colleagues, staff and business associates.


Besides his prestigious career in science, Jerry had many interests and hobbies. Just this past summer at age 95 he went fishing in Alaska, and his fondest memories are of fishing trips in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with his father- and brother-in-law Hubert and Elliott Wolfe. He was a sharpshooter and collected antique black powder rifles. He loved boating and sailing and was a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club. He was an avid tennis player and was a member at the California Tennis Club and Meadowood in St Helena.


Jerry was predeceased in death by his wife, Kayla, his daughter, Jamie, and his brother Myron. He is survived by his daughter, Andrea Huber of Bethesda Md, sister-in-law, Prisella Grodsky of St Louis, granddaughter Sophie (Moise Shifra) from Bethesda, grandsons Michael and Stephen Huber, great grandchildren Moishale and Hadassah, sister-in-law, Judith Wolfe of Salt Lake City, and many nieces, nephews, friends, associates, and previous students. He is grateful for the 20 years of love and companionship of Roberta Sherman, with whom he shared a love of theater, travel, art, great cuisine, and spending time in Saint Helena. The family wishes to thank his caretaker Eddilee for making him comfortable at the end. The family held a private funeral.