Obituaries — William Darrel Ensminger
William Darrel Ensminger, professor emeritus of internal medicine and pharmacology, died peacefully in his sleep aged 79 on March 11. In an instant, the world became less curious, generous, sensitive, funny, creative and wise.
He was born April 3, 1942 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to the late William F. and Elizabeth Ensminger.
As an oncologist and clinical researcher in the early 1980s, he was instrumental in the development of implantable ports. These medical devices continue to improve and extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients each year by providing safe and reliable venous access for treatments such as chemotherapy.
A competent clinician, Bill valued openness and honesty. Later, he enjoyed spending more time getting to know each patient in the clinic.
Bill was predeceased by Karen, his wife of 53 years, who experienced two decades of relentless medical challenges, which Bill approached with the unstoppable determination of a loving husband, analytical scientist and world-class physician.
He is survived by his son Alexander, his grandson Isaac (Ike), his daughter-in-law Julie Claycomb, his sisters Zelda Zimmerman and Lois Parker, his brother Joel Ensminger, his sister-in-law Ruth Ensminger, the extended family of Karen and many nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues.
A lifelong learner, Bill earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan, a Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in virology and an MD from Harvard Medical School. He completed a fellowship in medical oncology at Harvard Medical School, where he was an assistant professor from 1977 to 1978.
In 1978, he returned home to UM as an associate professor of internal medicine in the division of hematology/oncology. In 1982, he was promoted to professor of internal medicine and pharmacology. As a physician-scientist, his work has helped cancer patients near and far.
Bill’s commitment to leadership and service touched every aspect of his life. At UM, he was Associate Director (1980-90) then Director (1990-2001) of the Clinical Research Center, Director of the Upjohn Center for Clinical Pharmacology (1983-2010), and Director of the Cancer Pharmacology Program (1982 -99). He served as Vice Chairman of the Medical School Institutional Review Board from 2004 until his death.
Within the wider academic community, Bill chaired the Senate Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs (1998-1999) and was a longtime member of the Academic Freedom Lecture Fund Board and the American Association of University Professors.
Bill and Karen loved entertaining friends and family at their cottage on Independence Lake, where Bill served as President of the Lake Association from the 1980s to 2021. Even at college events, Bill frequently joked about – and was proud of – to be known as “Karen Ensminger’s”. husband.” She co-founded the Scrap Box, a local institution, in 1983. Its success and longevity is a testament to their generosity to the community and their unwavering commitment to one another.
Since Karen passed away in 2018, Bill has found joy in his grandson Ike, his family, and the familiar routine of life in Ann Arbor. The family would like to thank those members of the community whose small acts of kindness served as milestones in Bill’s life.
Friends, family and other well-wishers are invited to attend an outdoor memorial service at 11 a.m. June 11 at First United Methodist Church 120 S. State St., Ann Arbor. As a tribute to Bill’s caring legacy, the family asks all attendees to wear masks.
— Submitted by Alexandre Ensminger