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Loring B. Rowell, Ph. D. 1930 – 2020

Loring (Larry) B Rowell, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, died at home in Seattle, Washington, on December 19, 2020, after developing cardiac and renal failure.  Born on January 27, 1930, in Lynn, Massachusetts, Larry retired in 1997 after a long scientific career.  In addition to more than 100 scientific papers, he wrote two seminal books that serve as important resources for physicians and physiologists alike – Human Circulation, Regulation during Physical Stress (1986), and Human Cardiovascular Control (1993) – both published by Oxford University Press.  Internationally known for his work, he formed strong collaborations throughout his career with scientists around the world. 

After college and a brief stint teaching mathematics, Larry earned a Ph.D. in Physiology in 1962 at the University of Minnesota, based on his research into the physiological responses of human subjects performing extreme levels of treadmill exercise.  He continued this line of investigation after joining the University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Cardiology, as an instructor in 1963. Working under Dr. Robert A Bruce, developer of the famous Bruce protocol for treadmill stress testing, he made major contributions to our understanding of how the cardiovascular system copes with physical stresses.

He joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in 1970, maintaining close collaboration with the Department of Cardiology.  He was one of the leaders in building what became a Program Project group funded by the NIH, a group of investigators with perspectives that ranged in focus from the transfer of molecules from capillary to cell to the overall regulation of blood pressure and cardiac performance.   Except for a sabbatical year as a Fulbright Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark, and brief visiting professorships at universities in Denmark, Turkey, Belgium, France, and Iowa, he remained at the University of Washington, maintaining his high level of energy and productivity until his retirement in 1997.

He loved the mountains and forests of the New Hampshire of his youth.  In his college days, he skied Tuckerman’s Ravine, known to daredevils for its perilously steep terrain.  Each run required hiking up about 1,000 feet.  In the summer, he stayed in shape with his job of packing heavy loads up the trail to the summit hut on Mt. Washington.  He found a kindred spirit in Colleen, an equally skilled climber and skier.  After they married in 1956, they moved to Minneapolis for Larry’s graduate studies. Their children, Kathy and Thomas, were born there. While in Minnesota, Larry and Colleen skied down the steep hills on the banks of the Minnesota River at the Moon Valley ski area where they also taught skiing.  After their move to Seattle, they joined the Mountaineers and skied at the Snoqualmie Lodge until the Alpental ski area opened in 1967, giving them access to the kind of terrain they loved.  They were regular season pass holders thereafter. They also regularly returned to New Hampshire for the season of fall color, frequently visited Europe for climbing and skiing in the Alps and explored mountains as far away as New Zealand before the onset of Colleen’s illness in 2003. Until her death, in 2007, Larry read their favorite Robert Frost poems to her. 

Larry began the new phase of his life with the support of Kathy and Tom, his friends, and his other deep interests: classical music, literature, and his painting, as well as his lifelong habit of riding his bicycle for long tours covering the steepest and longest hills he could find.  He loved sharing his Alpental adventures with another skier – Leah, the daughter of Kathy.  Gifted as a caricaturist, he amused (and sometimes skewered) his friends and colleagues with his sketches.  He created imaginary animals that delighted the children he drew them for. An avid painter of landscapes in oil, he went on to create a series that expressed his love of Alpine scenes. 

Larry is survived by Patty Whisler, whom he married in 2009 and with whom he shared a rich and happy life filled with common interests in music, literature, civic activism, and a wide circle of friends; his children Kathy Rowell and Tom Rowell, both of Seattle; his granddaughter and her husband, Leah Henning and Matt Kelly, of Kirkland; and his great grandson, Fox Kelly.

Larry was one of those people who are said to be larger than life.  His twinkling wit, humor, and intensity of affection enriched the lives of everyone he loved, and he will truly be missed. 

A memorial will be scheduled when COVID contagion is no longer a threat.  Donations in Larry’s memory may be sent to the University District Food Bank or the Nature Conservancy.