In Memoriam: James Halpert

Former dean of the UConn School of Pharmacy, James (Jim) Halpert passed away on June 3, 2024.

Halpert served as the dean of the School of Pharmacy from 2014-2019, after which he retired to Tucson, Arizona following his 40-year career across two countries and four states.

Halpert earned a B.S. in Scandinavian Languages from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1971, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Uppsala University in Sweden in 1977, and then a Masters in toxicology from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 1978. Halpert continued his studies as a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University for two years, followed by a second post-doctoral fellowship at Karolinska Institute.

In 1983, Halpert joined the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arizona, beginning his independent research on the structural basis of cytochrome P450 selectivity. His research was supported continuously by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 33 years, including a MERIT Award as well as a Faculty Development Award from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Foundation. He was again recognized with an Award in Excellence from the PhRMA Foundation in 2016.

Following his fifteen years at the University of Arizona, Halpert joined the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1998 as professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Here, Halpert was able to build a chemical biology program, serve as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center and the Sealy Center for Environmental Health and Medicine, and assist with the development of a center for addiction research. Under his leadership, the department rose from 61 to 21 in NIH rankings of pharmacology departments.

In 2008, Halpert assumed his role as Associate Dean for Scientific Affairs at the University of California, San Diego School of Pharmacy. Here, he was the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) in 2010.

Halpert joined the UConn School of Pharmacy in 2014 as dean and professor of pharmaceutical sciences. Halpert noted that his time as dean was dominated by financial austerity, however, his increased philanthropy efforts along with a near double in research funding paved the way for the school to rise through national ranks. He pioneered efforts to upgrade and strengthen student recruitment and admissions, student services, academic affairs, financial affairs, marketing and communication, alumni affairs, and physical infrastructure.

In partnership with the UConn School of Medicine and Yale University, Halpert played an instrumental role in launching PITCH (Program in Innovative Therapeutics for Connecticut’s Health) — a pathway for researchers to find new, potentially life-saving therapeutics based on their discoveries in the lab.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Halpert, whose visionary leadership and commitment to excellence shaped our School to be what it is today,” says Dean Phil Hritcko. “His legacy will continue to inspire us.”

In 2019, Halpert was named a Fellow of ASPET, an honor bestowed to only the most distinguished members of the society based on their meritorious efforts to advance pharmacology. Halpert is the author of 209 peer-reviewed publications and 19 book chapters, with an H-index of 68 and over 16,000 citations. Highlights of his professional service include chairman of the NIH Pharmacology Study Section; editor of Drug Metabolism and Disposition; secretary-treasurer and president of ASPET; treasurer of the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics (ISSX); member of the International Advisory Committee for the 14th through 23rd Symposia on Microsomes and Drug Oxidations.

Following his retirement, Halpert spent his time in Arizona teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, consulting for colleagues, funding research excellence awards, and participating in professional society work. He looked forward to long hikes in the desert and mountains and visits back to Sweden during retirement. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Li Wang.

Viewing ceremony information can be found online, and will take place in Marana, Arizona.