Gorski Named to Receive WSU’s Highest Award

PULLMAN, Wash. — A scientist best known for his discovery and characterization of estrogen receptors will become the 30th recipient of the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award at Washington State University.

Jack Gorski, professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will receive the highest award WSU bestows on one of its graduates. The Middleton, Wis., resident is expected to return to campus this spring to accept the award. The announcement was made Jan. 26 at the Board of Regents meeting in Vancouver.

Gorski completed his master’s degree (1956) and a doctorate (1958) in animal sciences at WSU, where he also was a research assistant from 1953-58.

Gorski, named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, is being recognized for his outstanding contributions as a scientist and as a mentor to approximately 100 graduate students and postdoctoral students.

His discovery of the estrogen receptor in the mid-1960s was the first molecular characterization of a steroid hormone receptor. This seminal discovery opened up a new field of nuclear receptors and their intracellular signaling pathways — an arena in which hundreds of scientists are currently involved worldwide.

His early studies demonstrated the intimate association of the estrogen receptors in the nucleus for long-term growth and biosynthetic responses to estrogen. Continuing studies by Gorski and his associates have identified a variety of forms of the estrogen receptor in cells. Studies in his laboratory on the prolactin gene have resulted in newer, transcription activation models. These studies have been at the forefront of work in understanding the role of hormones such as estrogen in regulation of gene transcription and cell proliferation in both normal and tumor systems.

His approach to science has always been and continues to be insightful, broadly based and characterized by its creativity, says one of his colleagues. Drawing on his background in biochemistry, endocrinology and physiology, he has develop “novel approaches and cell systems for studying hormonal regulation and illuminating their physiological consequences.” The colleague adds, “In all of these studies, he has maintained a good sense of what is biologically important and of how to approach questions experimentally.”

He spent three years as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow in biochemistry at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the UW-M, before joining the department of physiology and biophysics at the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1961.

In 1973, he joined the UW-M faculty, where he was a professor in the departments of biochemistry, dairy science and animal science.

Many of his graduate students, postdoctoral associates and visiting scientists, now numbering more than 100, continue to populate the hormone-receptor and gene regulation fields, contributing important research in endocrinology and related areas.

Gorski was president of the Endocrine Society in 1990. His many awards include the Ernst Oppenheimer Memorial Award of the Endocrine Society, 1971, and the Fred Conrad Koch Award, 1987, the highest award given to a scientist by the Society. In 1986, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers, pro football and basketball teams, respectively, was the last recipient of the WSU award in 1999.

The Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award was established in 1961 to recognize those individuals who have made distinguished contributions to society and through their personal achievements have brought distinction to WSU. The late CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow was one of the first recipients.