Maurice M. Pechet, a Lowell House Senior Common Room member for nearly seven decades and a beloved mentor to generations of pre-medical students, died in his sleep on March 5. He was 94.
A celebrated doctor and chemist, Pechet graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1948 and was once considered for a Nobel Prize for his research, according to his wife Kitty Pechet.
“He wanted to find cures for diseases for which there were no known cures,” Kitty said. Pechet’s research on the metabolism of vitamin D led to the development of new treatments for nutrient deficiency. He also helped create prednisone, a widely used steroid, and 5-Fluorouracil, a drug used to combat many kinds of cancer.
Kitty attributed his success in medicine to the resourcefulness he acquired as a child in the “wilds of northern Saskatchewan.”
“His father ran a hardware store. People who needed something had to make it. If you were cold, you had to figure out how to make a stove,” she said. “And it was the figuring things out that allowed him to, I think, contribute to medicine. “
Family and friends remembered Pechet for his meaningful influence far beyond the laboratory or the clinic.
“He was omnipresent,” said Tamin M. L. Pechet ’00, one of Pechet’s four sons who all attended Harvard College and one Harvard graduate school apiece. “He was available and present for commitments to students, the Medical School, his research institute, boards—and yet he was always home for dinner and at my hockey games…. I don’t know where my dad got the time.”
Pechet was also devoted to his other home, Lowell House. He attended Masters’ teas and Senior Common Room lunches weekly and threw dinners at his home for the cast of the Lowell House Opera.
At Commencement each year, Petchet led the Lowell House procession. Two years ago, Lowell House Masters Dorothy A. Austin and Diana L. Eck, worried that the walk would be too tiring, rented him a special rickshaw.