Mayo’s Franklyn Prendergast dies at 78

Dr. Franklyn Prendergast, former Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, dies at 78.

Dr. Franklyn Prendergast’s life and career were marked by an unwavering commitment to the field of medicine and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. His legacy, which spans decades of groundbreaking research and institutional leadership, continues to inspire and influence the future of healthcare and scientific exploration. 

Dr. Prendergast’s journey in the world of medicine began at the University of the West Indies, where he earned his medical degree with honors in 1968. 

It was evident from the outset that he possessed an exceptional intellect and an insatiable thirst for understanding the intricacies of life.

Following his internship, he embarked on a remarkable academic odyssey, crossing the Atlantic to attend Lincoln College, University of Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. He emerged from Oxford with a BA and later an MA, both with First Class Honors, in 1971 and 1979, respectively.

His insatiable curiosity and dedication to advancing the field of medicine led him to Mayo Clinic in 1971, where he began his residency in Internal Medicine. It was at Mayo that Dr. Prendergast’s multifaceted brilliance truly shone. In 1977, he achieved the impressive milestone of earning a PhD in biochemistry from the joint Mayo Graduate School and University of Minnesota program.

Over the years, Dr. Prendergast’s career took him on a trajectory of astounding achievements. He became a full professor in both the Department of Pharmacology and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1986, a testament to his exceptional intellect and dedication to teaching and research. 

In the same year, he assumed the prestigious Edmond and Marion Guggenheim Professorship and was appointed chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Prendergast as a young man.
Prendergast in 1987.
Source: Mayo Clinic

In 1989, Dr. Prendergast was named the director of research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where he made transformative contributions to the institution’s scientific and clinical mission. His leadership was further cemented when he joined Mayo’s highest administrative committees, the Board of Governors and the Mayo Foundation’s board of trustees in 1990, roles he served in continuously until 2009.

In 1995, Dr. Prendergast was appointed Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, a position he held until September 2006. 

His involvement in numerous NIH and NSF grant review groups, task forces and advisory committees further solidified his reputation as a thought leader and change-maker in the field of medicine and research. He was a servant leader and inspirational to many.

Dr. Prendergast retired from Mayo Clinic in December 2014.

Dr. Prendergast served as a non-executive member of the Board of Directors of Eli Lilly and Co. from 1995 to 2017, where he provided invaluable insights to one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Prendergast was awarded honorary doctorates from Purdue University and the University of the West Indies, acknowledging his profound impact on medical education. He was also recognized with Distinguished Alumni awards from the University of the West Indies and the University of Minnesota. His most recent accolade in 2019, the Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumni award.

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