David Paretsky Honors Program Book Award

Paretsky Book Award Nomination

Paretsky Book Award Application

This fund, established in September of 2000 by noted author Sara Paretsky in honor of her father David Paretsky, a long-time professor of microbiology at KU, helps to cover fall text book expenses for deserving students. The average semester cost for textbooks is $375. 

David Paretsky was a pioneering researcher in the field of microbiology. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1918 to immigrant parents, he was raised in an environment that was deeply committed to his education. In 1939, he graduated from City College of New York with a BS in bacteriology. After serving in the Pacific Theater from 1944-1946, he completed his doctoral degree at Iowa State College.

Paretsky first came to the University of Kansas in 1951, where he eventually served as the chairman of the Department of Microbiology from 1958-1971. It was while here at KU that he had one of his major breakthroughs in research in 1956. Working with colleague Dr. Cora M. Downs, Paretsky became one of the first to reproduce the rickettsia organism, which allowed scientists to develop the vaccine against Q fever, a common European disease that had led to the deaths of numerous Allied and German soldiers during WWII. This work helped to lay the foundations of modern cell biology. Throughout his career, Paretsky also conducted much research on cancer, with a focus on liver cancer. In the classroom at KU, Paretsky was known as a “gifted and engaging lecturer” who had a passion for teaching and was eager to pass on his knowledge to students. By the time he retired in 1990, Paretsky had won numerous teaching awards and earned the title of Distinguished Professor at KU.

Outside of his time at KU, Paretsky had many other passions and interests. He and his late wife, Mary Edwards, felt strongly about social justice and were early advocates for both school integration and public housing in Lawrence. Paretsky also enjoyed listening to chamber music by Beethoven and Schubert, and he had a rich love for languages and history. In fact, while serving in the Pacific Theater, he wrote many love letters to Mary quoting Homer in Greek. He and Mary were married for 58 years and had five children together: Jeremy (1944); Sara (1947); Daniel (1949); Jonathan (1955); and Nicholas (1960). When he died on January 2, 2000, Paretsky left a remarkable legacy, and he will long be remembered for his wit, intelligence, and passion for life.


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