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Notice regarding Henry Aceto Jr.

Provost Michael R. Halleran sent the following message to the campus community June 29, 2018 - Ed.

Dear colleagues,

I write to share the news that Henry Aceto, Jr. of Williamsburg passed away peacefully on June 28, 2018, at the age of 82 from complications arising from a recent surgery. His wife of 47 years, Shirley Aceto, and son, Scott Peterson, were with him at the time. 

Known to family and friends as “Hank,” he was born in Schenectady, New York, on July 12, 1935, to his parents Enrico and Gilda Aceto.  His loving wife Shirley Aceto, his son Scott Peterson, and his grandson Jack Peterson survive him. Hank had five siblings, all but one of whom survive him: his eldest brother Vincent Aceto of Clifton Park, NY, Thomas Aceto of Maine and Arizona, and his sisters, Lucy Aceto Mizenko (deceased), Annemarie Aceto of Rensselear, NY, and Eleanor Angerami Aceto of Stuart, Florida. Two children from a prior marriage, Steven and Nancy Aceto, also survive him.

Destined for academic prominence, Hank pursued studies in biophysics, receiving an MS in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1961 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Texas in 1964. Following graduation, he returned to Berkeley, serving as a research biophysicist at the University of California, Donner Laboratory, from 1964 to 1970.  In 1970, he accepted a research and faculty appointment at William & Mary as Associate Professor of Biology and Assistant Director of the Space Radiation Effects Laboratory (SREL). At the SREL cyclotron, Hank pursued pioneering research in radiotherapy, leading to the development of one of this country's earliest experimental radiotherapy programs using helium ion radiation beams in the treatment of human cancer. In 1972, he was appointed Director of the university’s Virginia Associated Research Campus where he served until 1979.   His contributions to research on radiobiological effects, including tumor cell radiobiology, were significant.

He was promoted to Professor of Biology in 1976, and returned to the Williamsburg campus where he continued to teach courses in radiation biology, radioisotope methodology, and physiology in the Department of Biology, and expanded his research to include studies in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. As Adjunct Professor, he also taught radiological physics and nuclear medicine from 1978 to 1989 in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Biophysics at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.  In 1989 he was appointed Acting Dean of Graduate Studies for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in the School of Marine Science.  In this role he was instrumental in integrating the nascent academic program with the research and advisory mission of VIMS, setting the course that has made the School of Marine Science one of the leading marine science graduate programs in the United States.

In his rich and varied career in the sciences, Hank Aceto made many significant advances through his research and scholarship.  He gave much of his time to the encouragement and advancement of the careers of many students and colleagues, including development programs to recruit minority students in Marine Science.  He will certainly be remembered for these contributions, but even more so, he will be cherished for his generosity of heart, his many kindnesses, his natural grace and his wonderful sense of humor.  These were characteristic of his professional as well as his personal life. He was also an accomplished cook of great commensality.

A memorial service in Hank’s honor will be held on Thursday, July 12, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. in the Wren Chapel at William & Mary, to be followed by a reception in the Great Hall.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations may be made to the Pauley Heart Center MCV, or William & Mary in Hank’s memory.