University of Wisconsin–Madison

Archive: Memorial Resolution of the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the Death of Professor Emeritus Charles E. Yale

The creator and long-time director of the internationally renowned Gnotobiotic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Charles E. Yale, MD, passed away at the age of 85 at his retirement home in Mesa, Arizona on November 7, 2010. He was born on March 21, 1925 and was raised in Amboy, IL. After graduating at the top of his high school class, he spent four years as a U.S. Navy pilot during the end of WWII. In 1948, he married Helen Whitson and had four children between 1951 and 1957.

He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1949 with an undergraduate degree in engineering physics. After devoting several years to research at the Sohio Co., Charles attended medical school at Western Reserve University (now Case-Western Reserve). After obtaining his M.D. in 1955, he completed his medical training with a surgical residency at the University of Cincinnati and also obtained a D.Sc. degree in 1961. From 1962-1964, Dr. Yale completed an advanced clinical fellowship at Cincinnati’s VA Hospital under the direction of Dr. W.A. Altemeier where he participated in his first gnotobiotic research project. In 1964 he began his academic career on faculty at the University of Wisconsin Medical School with enthusiasm and motivation for teaching and research in addition to his clinical practice. Within his first year he introduced gnotobiotics to this campus.

During the first five years of his appointment at UW, he devoted himself to the arduous task of developing a germ-free research facility. The laboratory started in a small room in the Medical Sciences Building, metastasized throughout a three-floor house on the corner of Charter and Johnson Streets, and eventually moved to a rented facility on Williamson Street. Dr. Yale became its official director for 11 years. After devoting significant time and effort to fundraising and leadership for this new enterprise, perhaps to the detriment of his personal research goals, the 10,000 sq. ft. facility grew to be one of the best-equipped of its kind in the world and one of only a few that could accommodate large animals, including germfree dogs. He also established an independent breeding colony of germfree rats in 1968. Under his leadership, unique research involving germfree models was greatly enhanced and expanded at UW-Madison. In recognition of his achievements in this field, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Gnotobiotic Research and as President of the Association for Gnotobiotics.

He balanced his gnotobiotic research pursuits with a busy surgical practice. In addition to general surgery operations, he also performed vascular procedures, including portocaval shunts for portal hypertension prior to the formation of a vascular surgery division many years later. He was the first to offer gastric and intestinal operations for the treatment of morbid obesity at the UW. He provided these procedures to close to 1200 patients prior to his retirement and he taught numerous surgical residents how to perform them. His clinical research focused on minimizing complications and optimizing outcomes for his morbidly obese patients. As the finale to his successful surgical career, he was the Distinguished Guest Lecturer for the American Society for Bariatric Surgery in June, 1991.

In 1969, he was promoted to associate professor and in a very impressive career trajectory, he was promoted to professor just three years later. In 1974, Folkert O. Belzer, MD, the new Chair of Surgery, appointed him Vice Chairman of the department. He was credited with developing a new surgical practice compensation plan. He also served with distinction on a number of departmental, medical school and University committees including the Curriculum and Research Committee of the Department of Surgery, the Research Animal Resources Committee, and the Animal House Committee of the Medical School for which he served as Chairman for a number of years. Dr. Yale retired after 27 years of meritorious service to the University.

Following his retirement, he and his wife traveled nationally and internationally and enjoyed more than 50 Elderhostels, also putting more than 180,000 miles on their motor home. He thoroughly enjoyed photography and guests at dinner parties hosted by Dr. Yale and his wife were treated to magnificent slide shows of the Yales’ extensive travels. During his retirement he remained involved with the Department of Surgery as a frequent attendee at surgical grand rounds and departmental social functions.

He is survived by his wife, Helen; four children, Charles T. Yale of Racine, WI, Martha Yale Campbell of Kalamazoo, MI, Dorothy Yale Larson of Longwood, FL, and David Yale of Minneapolis, MN, as well as 13 grandchildren and three and a half great-grandchildren.

Dr. Yale is remembered as the ultimate gentleman and his UW colleagues and friends will miss him greatly.

Layton Rikkers, MD, Chair
Lou Bernhardt, MD
Bruce Harms, MD
Kristi Herritz