Hailed as a Renaissance man, Paul Block, Jr., the late co-publisher of The Blade, was honored Wednesday night during a University of Toledo lecture series for his contributions to science and journalism, and for his role as a civic leader.
Mr. Block’s life was the subject of the fourth annual S. Amjad Hussain visiting lecture in the history of medicine and surgery, a series conducted by the University of Toledo’s college of medicine and life sciences.
Scores of attendees — including the Toledo City Council president Joe McNamara and former mayor Carty Finkbeiner — listened to Mr. Block’s accomplishments as described by Maurice Manning, a UT professor emeritus and longtime colleague of Mr. Block at the former Medical College of Ohio.
The lecture was held in the college’s Health Education Building, which is connected to the Paul Block, Jr., Health Science Building.
Mr. Manning, a native of Ireland and an early faculty member at MCO, now the University of Toledo Medical Center, detailed some of Mr. Block’s major accomplishments in his varied fields of interest. The pair were also longtime friends, and Mr. Manning described Mr. Block as modest, gentle, and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor.”
“I admired him as a person, a chemist, and as a civic leader,” he said.
Born in 1911, Mr. Block was a man who very much cared about Toledo, Mr. Manning said, evidenced by the 1945 project “Toledo Tomorrow,” a view of the city 50 years in the future that was funded with $500,000 by The Blade. Thousands viewed the exhibit at the Toledo Zoo, and the project led to, among other things, the city’s Metroparks system and Toledo Express Airport.
Mr. Block was the driving force in the development of the Medical College of Ohio, which opened in 1969 and merged with the University of Toledo in 2006. Through the newspaper and private contact with politicians, he convinced the state to place a medical college in northwest Ohio and not elsewhere in the state.
The late Mr. Block was named to MCO’s board after the medical school was established in 1964, and members elected him chairman.
The school was Mr. Block’s first love among all his projects, Mr. Manning said.
Maybe less known, Mr. Manning said, is that Mr. Block was a “virtuoso chemist” who published 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers and was a National Institutes of Health grantee. Mr. Block even had his own private lab next to his house for more than 30 years, where he conducted much of his research.
Mr. Block received a PhD in organic chemistry from Columbia University in New York City in 1943, and played a key role in the field of thyroid research, discovering that iodine was not essential for thyroid compounds.
He synthesized a compound that had no iodine or other halogen, in research that was published in 1973 in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Mr. Manning called the discovery a revolutionary finding, and said Mr. Block’s work has been used extensively in research and could have potential therapeutic uses.
All of this work came while Mr. Block was co-publisher of The Blade from 1942 to 1987, when he died at the age of 75. He was a champion of civil rights and a supporter of the arts and culture in Toledo.
Allan Block, chairman of The Blade’s parent company, Block Communications Inc., said the tribute to his father by Mr. Manning was outstanding and well-researched. He said he was delighted that turnout for the event was so strong, and that attendees could learn about his father’s many accomplishments.
“I don’t think my father deserves to just be a strange name on a building who no one knew existed,” he said. “He deserves to be remembered.”
UT President Lloyd Jacobs said many are unaware of how groundbreaking Mr. Block’s chemistry work was; he said Mr. Block’s discovery helped shape modern biochemistry. The university’s Health Science Campus tries to carry on Mr. Block’s multiplicity, by offering health care to residents, teaching doctors, and by being a leader in the community. “[Mr. Block’s] pursuit of excellence is what I think we celebrate every day around here,” Dr. Jacobs said.
Contact Nolan Rosenkranz at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.