September 3, 1928 ~ February 5, 2021

Born in: Buffalo, New York
Resided in: Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Donald J. Niederpruem, a father of four, Indiana University School of Medicine professor of microbiology and immunology, researcher, Army veteran, trumpet player and band leader, died Feb. 5. He was 92.

He was born in Buffalo, N.Y. to Emma Claude and Joseph Niederpruem in 1928 and had served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1954 leaving service as a sergeant.

He received his BA, MA and PhD in biology from the University of Buffalo – the city in which he grew up – and did his post-doctoral graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to the Department of Microbiology at the School of Medicine in Indianapolis as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1968.

Between 1958 and 1987, Dr. Niederpruem published 62 papers in peer-reviewed and scientific journals. His work mostly focused on the growth, duplication and fate of multikaryotic hyphae using the model organism Schizophyllum – or how fungi distributed their nuclei as they reproduced. Such work was essential to the development of anti-fungal therapies.

His work eventually extended to the human pathogen Trichophyton. Much of his work was published in the Journal of Bacteriology and the Canadian Journal of Microbiology. In 1959, he published a paper in Nature describing the cytochrome system used for energy transfer in Streptomyces, an important model organism that was used to advance our understanding of fungal genetics.

Dr. Niederpruem was the recipient of the Lederle Medical Faculty Award 1962-1965. He also served as a past president of the American Society of Microbiology, Indiana branch, in 1974. His research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Eli Lilly, Phi Beta Psi and the Rockefeller Foundation.

He also was the first recipient of the Edward C. Moore Award for outstanding teaching at IUPUI in 1983. The award was named for the then recently retired dean of the faculties and executive dean Dr. Edward C. Moore, who oversaw the development of IUPUI’s academic programs from 1977 to 1982. IUPUI chancellor Glenn W. Irwin, Jr. announced and presented the award to Dr. Niederpruem at the annual IUPUI Learning Resources Symposium.

In April of 1990, he was awarded the Glenn W. Irwin Jr. MD Experience Excellence Recognition Award for Service to IUPUI Beyond the Call of Duty.

He often resorted to what he candidly called “teaching gimmicks” to capture the minds of his students, including pop music, historical impersonations and slide shows. “If I don’t get their attention at the first, I’ve lost them for the remaining 45 minutes of my class,” he said. His office door featured a bumper sticker that read: “Mycologists Have More Fungi.” A former student recalled he also said frequently: “There are old mushroom eaters, and bold mushroom eaters but no old, bold mushroom eaters.”

He retired from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology June 30, 1993, after teaching thousands of medical and nursing students and PhD candidates. He also served as a visiting professor of mycology at Purdue University. Vice President Gerald L. Bepko awarded him the title of Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology at the time of his retirement. After his retirement, the department gave a staff award “in recognition of outstanding performance and service” named after Dr. Niederpruem.

A lifelong trumpet player, he was the leader of several Indianapolis bands, including Swingtime, Ragtime, Good Old Days and Jazz Interlude. Some of the local musicians he played with included: Fred Withrow, bass; Sam Withrow, drums; Carolyn Dutton, violin; Carl Thoele, saxophone; Paul Rhine, bass; Bill Overman, saxophone; Frank Niemic, drums and vibes; Danny Weiss, saxophone; Jim Hicks, trombone; Don Smith, trumpet; Bill Tungate, saxophone; Rich Cohen, saxophone; Tim Roethler, saxophone. He had played at various venues and events around Indianapolis, including Zoobilation at the Indianapolis Zoo and the Woodstock Country Club.

He also was an avid bowler, stamp collector and model plane builder and often took his children on mushroom hunts in Holliday Park and Eagle Creek Park. Dr. Niederpruem was also a Boy Scout leader and Webelo leader for Troop 512 on the Westside of Indianapolis.

He was preceded in death by his wife Dolores in 1969.

Surviving relatives: daughter Kim Grosser and husband Glen, daughter Kyle Niederpruem, daughter Kiernan Smith and husband David, and son Michael Niederpruem and wife Alexe. He also had five grandchildren – Kris Grosser, Kari Grosser, Nicholle Smith, Kai Niederpruem and Emi Niederpruem.

A celebration of life will be held later this summer.

In lieu of flowers, a gift in remembrance of Donald Niederpruem to the IU School of Medicine would be appreciated. Please include a note that your gift is in memory of Donald Niederpruem and the account #2983920. The check should be made out to IUF/IU School of Medicine and mailed to: IUF/IUSM, PO Box 7072, Indianapolis, IN 46207-7072.

 

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  1. May each of you find courage to face tomorrow as you rest in the knowledge that we truly care about each of your needs and that we will be here to walk beside you in your journey of grief.

    Eddie Beagles and the staff of Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. May you find comfort, peace, and solace in your memories of the love that was shared within your family.

    • Dr. Niederpruem, I don’t think we ever met but you help raise one heck of an amazing granddaughter and if she has any qualities or traits from you, I bet you were an amazing man. May you rest in peace, your memories live on forever and you find comfort in the beyond.

  3. He was my Grandad and will be very missed in my family. I remember every time we visited him and spent time with him, even in the last year when we were separated by a screen and masks. I only regret that we weren’t able to see him one more time before his passing.

  4. This was my post to Facebook when my Dad passed…

    My Dad passed away early this morning. He didn’t succumb to COVID, but I believe his death was exacerbated by his failure to thrive in long-term care (like too many others these days). Fortunately, we got him into hospice, cared for and comforted directly by the family. He lived a full and rich 92+ years. He was a prolific researcher and even better teacher.

    I remember I had an adjunct teaching gig for a while, teaching Anatomy and Physiology to pre-nursing students back in Indianapolis, where I grew up. After my very first lecture, a few students came up to talk to me after class.

    One student told me her mother had my Dad as her instructor (she was a nurse) and wanted me to know he was one of the best. I was astounded and humbled. Then, another student chimed in and said the very same thing! Talk about pressure!

    I spent some time with my Dad before he passed, and I was grateful he asked me to play my trumpet for him one last time. Always the jazz aficionado, he sang a few notes and asked me if I knew the tune? I did – “Four” by Miles Davis. I played him the melody, and he shared with me a broad, contented smile as he drifted off to sleep.

    Thank you so much for everything, Dad – you will be missed.

  5. We were good friends and even bowling Partners during the 1970’s. Kiernan and Michael played with my 2 sons when our families were together.
    My daughter became one of his students in the late 70’s. She enjoyed the way he entertained during his class.
    I also remember how close he was to his students.
    He was a good man. He had a good rewarded career and life.
    He will be missed.

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