OSU Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Franklin R. Leach

Leach1.jpgFranklin R. Leach joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1959 as a research associate and then again in 1960 as an assistant professor. From 1962-1972, Dr. Leach was a Research Career Development Awardee from the National Cancer Institute within the National Institutes of Health. During 1965 to1966 he took a sabbatical as a research fellow with Dr. Robert Sinsheimer at the California Institute of Technology, and in 1968, he was promoted to full professor at OSU. Dr. Leach also served as the interim Department Head (1990) and as Associate Department Head (1990-1998). Franklin also stepped forward as the Assessment Coordinator and pioneered ways of assessing student learning outcomes in our Department which are still used today.

Leach 2.jpgProfessor Leach played a prominent role in guiding the construction of the Noble Research Center D-wing (AKA “Stevens wing”) that houses the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. During this time Dr. Leach made sure that the facility was prepared for the science to be conducted therein and appropriate for the scientists who would occupy its space. It was Franklin that championed placing desks in laboratories which now allows our students to focus intensely on their research. He also advocated to place the departmental office in a central location on the second floor to improve interactions among departmental personnel. During the entire building process, it was Dr. Leach that made sure everything went smoothly as the entire department transitioned to their new home in the Noble Research Center.

Leach3Professor Leach taught biochemistry laboratory, enzymes, regulation and metabolism courses. In his “regulation” course using tremendous forethought, he challenged students to understand the mathematics required to fully understand the metabolism science of the day. Dr. Leach’s work on nucleotide metabolism required tissue culture, and it is believed that his laboratory may have been the first to use cell culture as a research tool at OSU. Dr. Leach directed 7 MS students, 14 doctoral students, and 6 Postdoctoral Associates and all told, trained 124 students in a biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory setting. 

Leach4.jpgProfessor Leach was a scientist with a broad range of contributions to the fields of bacterial metabolism, bacterial enzymes, protein synthesis, RNA phages, bacterial transformation, cell culture, vitamin transport, analytical and environmental biochemistry, and firefly luciferase and ATP analysis. Dr. Leach was very active in obtaining grants (> $ 1.5 million during his career) and his work generated 103 peer-reviewed publications over his illustrious career. In addition, he was the editor for the Oklahoma Academy of Science from 1989-96 and a founding member of the International Society for Bioluminescence and Chemiluminescence.

Dr. Leach retired from OSU in September 1998 and in 2002 moved back to Texas to be near some of his kids, where he continued to teach Biochemistry online as a visiting professor for the University of Health Sciences Antigua.

Dr. Leach was an accomplished pilot, and part owner of an airplane that he would fly with faculty members on recruiting trips to colleges within range of the plane. Even when Dr. Leach used only the plane’s instrument panel to route his course through stormy weather, his fellow passengers were able to maintain a relative sense of ease. Franklin also designed the very first departmental T-shirt which had a cartoon circle on its front containing small caricatures that captured the essence of the research being conducted in each of the department’s laboratories. Dr. Leach took time to bring children into his investigations on the natural world. In fact, a group of children were responsible for capturing a collection of the widely cherished firefly Photuris pennsylvanica which was used by Dr. Leach’s group to clone the organism’s luciferase gene. With the help of ATP (the energy source of everything living), the luciferase enzyme produces light via the oxidative decarboxylation of luciferin. The work of Dr. Leach and others on luciferase led to the development of a widely used assay designed to determine the concentration of ATP in various solutions.

Franklin continued to enjoy nature after leaving OSU as evidenced by a description of lizards in his yard on his Facebook page at the top of a picture of a green anole: “Introducing Mr. Lizard Green who lives in the front garden and is a close friend. Mr. Lizard Brown lives in our mail box and censors our communications. From my couch in the front room, the bluebonnet room, I can view snapshots of their life. Photo by Carol Huddle.” Franklin Leach August 8th 2014.

In addition to his beloved wife Anna, survivors include a son, Barry Coke of Stillwater, OK; four daughters and their spouses: Carolyn Leach and Richard Procter of Sierra Madre, CA; Carol and Robert Huddle of Belton, TX; Janet and Troy Weiss of Anchorage, AK; and Barbara and Doug Perkins of Edmond, OK; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. One son, Alan Coke, pre-deceased him.

It is entirely fitting that Franklin spent a large part of his life in a city whose high schoolers go by the sobriquet “Pioneers”, since he was a true pioneer. Professor Leach had a very positive influence on many students and colleagues at OSU, and he will forever be remembered as a cherished member and leader of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

It is very appropriate to remember Franklin whenever you find beauty, as he did, in the magnificent beetles that add momentary flying sparks of life to the darkness in the backyards and forests of Oklahoma.

John E. Gustafson
Ulrich Melcher

Below is the link to his official obituary
http://www.scanioharperfuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1824917

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