Dr. William L. Dewey
Louis S. and Ruth S. Harris Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology
The Presidential Medallion was established in 1984 by the Virginia
Commonwealth University Board of Visitors to honor the outstanding
contributions of members of the university community. Presented
by the President at Commencement, the award recognizes these
individuals for extraordinary achievement in learning and commitment
to the mission of VCU.
Dr. William L. Dewey earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Siena
College, The College of Saint Rose and the University of Connecticut,
respectively, and performed his postdoctoral work at the University of
North Carolina, where he later served as assistant professor of
In 1972, VCU recruited Dr. Dewey to serve as director of the graduate
program in pharmacology, and he has since held a number of posts within
the university, including vice chair for research, vice chair, and
currently chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology,
associate dean, and later, dean of the School of Basic Health Sciences,
assistant dean of the Graduate School and, for 12 1/2 years, associate
provost and vice president for research and graduate studies.
Dr. Dewey has also served as executive director of the Virginia
BioTechnology Research Park and currently serves as president of The
Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in addition to his past
posts as president of The College on Problems of Drug Dependence, The
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. For
more than 20 years, he has been chair of the National Advisory Board of
the Research Center for Minority Institutions at Florida A&M University
and the Consumer Advisory Board for the Partnership for People with
Disabilities at VCU.
He worked simultaneously as the director of three training grants
from three different NIH institutes, and one of the grants has been
funded for 40 years. His investigator-initiated research has been
funded by NIH for more than 44 years, including the years he served in
the central administration of the unversity, and concentrates on the
functional role of endogenous substances, including neurotransmitters,
opioids, calciuim and calcitonin gene-related peptide in the mechanisms
of action of morphine and other abused substances.
Dr. Dewey and Edwin Myer, M.D., emeriti faculty in the VCU Department
of Neurology, discovered than an increase in endogenous opioids occurred
in sudden infant death syndrome, and this led to the use of naltrexone
for the treatment of SIDS and other diseases with centrally induced
respiratory depression. In addition to his opioid work, he has
contributed significantly to the pharmacology and understanding of the
mechanism of tolerance to marijuana.
Dr. Dewey and his wife Pat will celebrate 52 years of marriage this
October. The couple has six children and 13 grandchildren.