January 9, 1998

Sidney Harshman remembered as inspiring researcher, teacher

Sidney Harshman, a renowned microbiologist whose career in research, teaching and administration spanned nearly 40 years at Vanderbilt University, died Dec. 25 at his home from complications of diabetes. Mr. Harshman, professor Microbiology and Immunology Emeritus, was 67.

"He was the world's leading expert on staphylococcal alpha toxins," said Conrad Wagner, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry. "He also deeply cared for other people and was always eager to help his students and colleagues."

Mr. Harshman grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and attended Western Reserve University, where he received his bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry in 1950. He received a doctor of science degree in biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1959. That same year he began his career at Vanderbilt as an instructor. He served as associate dean of the Graduate School from 1976 to 1981.

His work was published in numerous journals. He attended national and international conferences, including the Warsaw International Staphylococcal Conference and the Gordon Conference on Toxins.

He lectured at Dumont in Brussels and at UNESSCP in London. He served as editor for a volume on Microbial Toxins of Methods in Enzymology. He, with his wife, Joan Schwartz Harshman, spent a sabbatical year in Paris, France, as Visiting Professor at the Pasteur Institute.

"Sidney was a scholar in the truest sense of the word and took almost childish delight in academic pursuits," said Dr. James R. Snapper, professor of Medicine, and a neighbor of the Harshmans. Snapper noted that Mr. Harshman was proud of his administrative work at Vanderbilt, where he chaired the Faculty Senate for two terms and served on numerous committees.

"He was a very upbeat person who always tried to encourage people beyond their limits, and he was a genuine colleague in the truest sense of the word," said John H. Hash, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and Immunology Emeritus.

Mr. Harshman was remembered by his colleagues as being very close to his family. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children; Amy Green, of Brentwood; Rachel Harshman, of Dublin, Ireland; and Dr. David L. Harshman, of New Bern, N.C.; and five grandchildren. He is survived by one brother, Dr. Morton L. Harshman, of Cincinnati; and two sisters, Ethel Sherman, of Youngstown, Ohio; and Sarah Rosenzweig, of Los Angeles.