Bessie Huang Gilula
April 5, 1945 - March 2, 2017
Bessie Huang Gilula, a retired research scientist of The Scripps Research Institute, died peacefully at her home in La Jolla, CA, on March 2, 2017 after a long, courageous bout with cancer.
Bessie was born on April 5, 1945 in Chungking, the wartime capital of China. She immigrated to the United States two years later with her parents, when her father, a diplomat, was posted to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC.
At a very early age, Bessie took a keen interest in the study of ballet. When her family moved to Queens, NY in the early 1950s, she began studying at the American School of Ballet under George Balanchine. Bessie was an exceptional dancer and was selected to join a number of productions including the original cast of the American classic ballet "The Nutcracker."After graduating with honors from the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, Bessie attended Sarah Lawrence College and majored in Biology. Following her graduation in 1966, she pursued graduate studies in Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.
While at Berkeley, she earned a Ph.D. in Cell Biology in 1971 and met the love of her life, Norton Bernard Gilula, a fellow graduate student. The two were married at the United Nations Church Center in New York in 1972 and enjoyed a 28-year professional and personal partnership that was cut short in 2000 with Bernie's untimely death.
Bessie's scientific pursuits focused primarily on the molecular mechanisms of cellular motility. After completing postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School in Boston and The Rockefeller University in New York, Bessie was an Assistant Professor at both Rockefeller and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Bessie and her family moved to La Jolla in 1986 joining the faculty of the Departments of Cell Biology and Molecular Biology at The Scripps Research Institute where she thrived until the time of her retirement in 1999. During her professional career, Bessie authored many articles featured in prominent scientific publications and was a member of numerous boards in the field of Cell Biology.
Bessie truly was a lover of life she traveled the world, loved cooking and eating, and was an avid golfer who had two career hole-in-ones. Most importantly she was an amazing wife, mother and grandmother and always put her family first. Preceded in death by her mother Carrie Huang and husband Bernie, Bessie is survived by her sons Jonathan Gilula (Robin) and Daniel Gilula; her father Shing-Yi Huang; her sister Belle Huang (Ed); her brother Sidney Huang (Lauren); grandchildren Brin and Cameron Gilula; and her longtime companion Lowell Dicke. She will also be missed by many dear friends and family, and especially by her beloved dog Lai-Fu.