Statement by University of Utah President Michael K. Young on the death of Dr. Willem J. Kolff, University of Utah Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Bioengineering, Surgery and Medicine
Feb 12, 2009 - The thoughts and prayers of the faculty, staff and students at the University of Utah are with Dr. Kolff's family as we mourn the loss of this remarkable man. While we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his extraordinary achievements and the impact his work has had on millions of people around the world.
Dr. Kolff was a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. His groundbreaking work on the artificial kidney in the 1940s made him a household name and a hero to millions of people around the world who benefited from this life-saving technology.
His work at Utah was marked most notably by his leadership of the University's Institute for Biomedical Engineering which paved the way for the implantation of the world's first artificial heart into Dr. Barney Clark at University of Utah Hospital in 1982.
However, his lasting legacy on the University and the state of Utah is far greater than just the artificial heart. When Dr. Kolff came to Utah in 1967, the best and the brightest in medicine and bioengineering followed him. Today, his legacy lives on in these former colleagues and students who continue to make Utah an international leader in research and commercial development of new biomedical technologies.
University of Utah distinguished professor of bioengineering Joe Andrade, Ph.D. was a colleague of Dr. Kolff and remembers him as an "indefatigable spirit" -- always questioning, always considering new ideas, never slowing down. That is the Dr. Kolff we remember today.
We thank Dr. Kolff for his legacy to our University, our state, and to the people around the world who have benefited so greatly from his remarkable life and work.