Ray W. Fuller
December 16, 1935, to August 11, 1996
On Sunday, August 11, the Serotonin Club lost a valued member and friend. Ray Fuller died peacefully at home after a long struggle with chronic Iymphocytic leukemia.
Ray is perhaps best known as a member of the scientific triad (including David Wong and Bryan Molloy) that developed fluoxetine (Prozac). However, his contributions to science and education extend far beyond Prozac. Ray's life story reads like a novel. Born in Southern Illinois, Ray spent his early years growing up on a farm in a fairly isolated area without electricity, telephones, indoor plumbing, or school buses. In a commencement address to his alma mater, Ray noted that his elementary schooling took place in a one-room school house and that he never expected to go to high school. But his parents moved to a town that had a high school when he and bis brother were in the seventh and eighth grades, respectively, so that the boys could attend the school. After high school, Ray attended Southem Illinois University, where he earned a B.A. in chemistry. Ray credited the faculty at SIU for helping him to learn how to study, and he repaid that debt by being a lifelong supporter of the University, which included returning regularly to give graduate lectures. To help support himself at SIU, Ray worked at the Anna State Hospital in various positions, including helping when patients were given electro-convulsive therapy. It was during this job that Ray developed his intense interest in the brain and the idea that a better understanding of the central nervous system could lead to new treatments for the mentally ill. After receiving his bachelor's degree, Ray stayed on at SIU to earn his M.A. in microbiology. He then moved to Purdue University where he earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1961. From 1961-1963 he was the Director of the Biochemistry Research Laboratory at Fort Wayne State Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but left that position to become more directly involved in the drug discovery process by joining Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. At Eli Lilly, Ray proceeded through the ranks holding a number of different positions. In 1989, he was promoted to Lilly Research Fellow, one of the most prestigious positions for a Lilly scientist. During his time at Lilly, Ray also held adjunct faculty positions at Indiana University School of Medicine and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and was a Visiting Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ray was one of those rare individuals who approached every activity with the idea that he was going to do it to the absolute best of his ability, whether it be as scientist, family man, or church member. His philosophy of life was summed up by the closing lines of his commencement address to the students at Southern Illinois University College of Science in 1994. He provided them with three points of advice: "First is, be yourself. Nobody else can do that. Second is, don't let the fear of making mistakes keep you from finding out what you can accomplish. And third is, keep learning--continue your education--throughout life."
Ray Fuller was a complex and multifaceted individual. He enjoyed the out-of-doors, fishing, and bird watching. He liked country music. He was also something of a gourmet. When traveling, you could always count on Ray to use his on-line service to identify the best rated restaurants in the destination city. In July, when Lilly invited a number of his friends and colleagues to a symposium honoring his accomplishments, Ray selected all the food for the dinner the night before, from appetizers to dessert. Ray also had an excellent knowledge of wines and could be trusted to pick a good one for a meal. He had other talents as well. For example, Ray was a fast typist and skilled at taking shorthand. At Lilly, he was also legendary as a grammarian. If you presented a slide or acetate (in even the most casual setting) and were careless enough to include a spelling or grammatical error, Ray would always catch it and correct it.
As a scientist, Ray exhibited remarkable insight and clarity of thought. His scientific integrity was indisputable. His own work was characterized by his ability to identify the important issues and the elegant simplicity by which his experiments addressed these. When discussing data or the design of experiments, Ray could always be counted on to provide an impartial, objective perspective. He always seemed to know just the right questions to ask. Ray was a tireless advocate of the importance of scientific writing and peer review. He felt strongly that the process of writing was a critical part of the scientific process, and he practiced what he preached, with over 500 scientific publications in the areas of neuropharmacology and neurochemistry.
Ray's honors were many. These included two honorary doctorates, one from Southern Illinois University and one from Purdue University, and both the Outstanding Professional Achievement and Alumni Achievement Awards from Southern Illinois University. In 1993, he was the co-recipient of one of the most coveted awards for drug development, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association's Discoverers Award, for his work on fluoxetine. In spite of his honors and achievements Ray remained a humble, unassuming individual. His door was always open, and he always had time to listen and help regardless of one's rank. Ray was fond of collecting quotes. One that he liked from Leo Rosten, and which seemed to fit his approach to life, was "I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."
Over the last several months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about Ray Fuller and what he has meant to me and to the scientific community. While a lot can be (and has been) said about his outstanding credentials as a scientist, the real measure of a man is the mark that he leaves on the people with whom he comes into contact. In Ray's case his mark was indelible. I have had the pleasure, and occasionally the pain, of talking to a number of Ray's colleagues and friends about his illness and death. The heartfelt warmth with which his colleagues describe their feelings towards Ray has been truly striking and gratifying. In these discussions, people could not say enough positive things about Ray: his integrity, his thoughtful polite manner, his willingness to help and serve. Ray was a good and true friend to so many in the scientific community. Perhaps the most telling comment about Ray came in a recent telephone conversation with a young scientist who had called to express her feelings about Ray. She concluded our talk by saying that in her career she hoped that she could "be like Ray." And that, I think, is the highest compliment that one can pay--that is, having such respect for another that you would wish to emulate them.
We would all do well to emulate Ray Fuller.
David L. Nelson, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Eli Lilly & Company