In Memoriam: Dr. John U. Balis

Dr. John U. Balis, professor emeritus of Pathology and Cell Biology at the University of South Florida, died August 12, 2010, while visiting his birthplace of Kalamata, Greece, following a trip with his family. He was 78 years old.

Dr. Balis received his doctorate degree in medicine from the University of Athens and completed residencies in anatomical and pediatric pathology in the United States and Canada. His academic career began at the Department of Pathology at the University of Toronto in Canada, and he was a faculty member at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago before joining USF College of Medicine in 1978. He retired in 2004 after 40 years of a highly distinguished teaching and research career in academic pathology.

Dr. John U. Balis

Dr. Santo Nicosia, professor and chair of Pathology and Cell Biology, knew Dr. Balis as a close friend and colleague.

“We were united by a similar enthusiasm for the world of medicine and classic culture. Lately, we maintained the good tradition of monthly dinners together with Dr. David Rowlands, a common friend and past-chair of pathology. With John leading the way, conversations were never dull but always intellectually stimulating,” Dr. Nicosia said. “His advice on critical academic and professional matters was always sharp and much appreciated over time. I will miss him greatly.”

At USF, Dr. Balis held several key positions in Department of Pathology and Cell Biology – including acting chair from 1979 to 1982. He was director of Experimental Pathology and Research Laboratories, Medical Teaching and Electron Microscopy (at the affiliated James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and USF), Autopsy Service and the Pathology Alumni Foundation. He was a member and then chair of the College of Medicine’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, and a key player in the reorganization and integration of the medical curriculum.

Dr. Balis was one of the founding members of the USF Greek Studies Council, and he helped to launch the American and International Foundations of Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC/IFGLC) and to develop five related endowed professorships. He served as the executive vice president of AFGLC from 1992 to 2007 and as president since 2008.

His enthusiasm for teaching medical students and the college’s overall teaching mission is embodied in the several Outstanding Preclinical Teach Awards Dr. Balis received. His scientific contributions to the field of experimental pathology, with particular focus on pulmonary pathobiology of the lung surfactant system, still stand the test of time. His work was routinely quoted by researchers in the field, and Dr. Balis was extramurally supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, the American Heart Association and the U.S. Army. He served the scientific community as a reviewer of NIH and VA Merit grants and as a member of the NIH Pathology “A” Study Section.

Dr. Balis is survived by his son Ulysses Balis, his daughter-in-law Jennifer, and grandsons, John and Hayg, all of Ypsilanti, MI.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, August 20, (Trisagion Service 7 p.m.) at Blount & Curry Funeral Home, 605 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, FL.

Funeral services will be held 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 21, at St. John Greek Orthodox Church, 2418 W. Swann Ave., Tampa, FL, with burial to follow at Garden of Memories Cemetery, 4207 East Lake Ave. Tampa, FL.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Foundation for Greek Language & Culture (AFGLC Inc.) in the name of the Dr. John Balis Scholarship Fund and forwarded to the Dr. John Balis Scholarship Fund, c/o The American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture, Inc. (AFGLC, Inc.), 10413 Butia Place, Tampa, FL 33618-4117.