Thomas Huff, who helped launch VCU Life Sciences, dies at age 62

Thomas Huff, who helped launch VCU Life Sciences, dies at age 62

Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D., who as vice provost for life sciences and research at Virginia Commonwealth University led VCU’s march into the age of genomic research, died Sunday. He was 62.

Huff was named vice provost in 2001, charged with putting VCU at the forefront of U.S. universities preparing students in the new fields of the biological sciences that had opened through research to sequence the human genome. Life Sciences at VCU includes the Rice Rivers Center, the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity and the Center for Environmental Studies.

“Those who knew Tom could not help but be swept up in his energy, intelligence and passion for the life sciences,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “From the labs on our campuses to the living laboratory of the Rice Rivers Center, Tom shepherded a new holistic way of looking at science.”

Interim Provost John Wiencek, Ph.D., said, “The VCU community has lost a talented and devoted leader, scientist, educator and friend. Although his absence will be difficult, his legacy will remain strong in the many world-class programs he took to prominence.”

As the inaugural vice provost for VCU Life Sciences, Huff was critical in the success of the academic programs and research initiatives in the highly interdisciplinary fields. Through his commitment to the study of biological complexity, he led hundreds of faculty members across both campuses and at the three VCU-chartered centers.

“Dr. Tom Huff was a quintessential VCU faculty member and administrator,” said Eugene Trani, Ph.D., former president of VCU. “He will be deeply missed. His legacy, however, will endure. As the founding vice provost for VCU Life Sciences, VCU is a greater institution because of Tom's tremendous efforts.”

Leonard Smock, Ph.D., professor and director of the Rice Rivers Center, said, "Tom was VCU Life Sciences. His enthusiasm, energy, intellect, and, most of all, his far-reaching vision was the cornerstone of interdisciplinary research and education at VCU. Tom loved his extended VCU family, and all of us benefited greatly from his friendship and leadership."

Huff earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Louisville. He arrived at VCU in 1985 as an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He was promoted to associate professor in 1991 and to professor in 1995. During his career at VCU, he also served as director of the intramural grants program and group leader of the immunology program at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

In addition to his work at VCU, Huff was involved in numerous organizations in the Richmond community including serving on the board of directors at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. He was also an avid fisherman and enjoyed photography.

“For nearly 30 years at VCU, Tom was a great collaborator, colleague and friend,” Rao said. “Our condolences go to his entire family. We hope they find comfort in a VCU community who mourns with them and offers our support.”

Huff is survived by his wife, May Ligon Huff; his daughter, Elizabeth, and his son, Thomas.

A visitation will be held at Bliley's Funeral Home, 3801 Augusta Ave., on Tuesday, Feb. 3, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a memorial service will be held at Eternity Church, 1900 Chamberlayne Ave., on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 11 a.m.


Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D.
Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D.
Thomas Huff, Ph.D., discusses the "Secrets of the Sequence"