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Irwin W. Sizer

Irwin W. Sizer, a former dean of the graduate school and Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, died at his home in Bedford, Ma. on September 11. He was 90 years old.

Born in Bridgewater, Ma., Sizer received his undergraduate degree at Brown University in 1931. After receiving his doctorate at Rutgers University in 1957, Sizer returned to Massachusetts for a sixty year career at MIT.

While at MIT, he held several important academic positions. He became the chairman of the department of biology in 1957 and dean of the graduate school in 1967. A strong proponent of diversity, Sizer worked during his tenure as a dean to improve the number of women and minorities at the institute.

Sizer also worked extensively to create collaborative academic programs with other other Massachusetts universities. In 1974, he co-founded the Whitaker College at MIT with MIT alumnus Uncas Whitaker ’23 and Harvard Medical School professor George Thorn. This program offers joint doctorate programs with the Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University Medical Schools.

Sizer also had a strong commitment to MIT’s own research and academic programs. Under his leadership, work in molecular biology at MIT gained worldwide recognition. In 1996, he and his late wife endowed the Helen and Irwin Sizer Career Development Professorship at MIT.

Sizer received several academic distinctions during his long academic career. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and received an honorary doctorate of science from Brown University.

He also had strong research connections outside of the MIT community. He served as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health for several years, was both a trustee and governor of Rutgers University, was a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science. He also served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and Johnson & Johnson and was a board member of Boston Federal Savings Bank.