Ephraim Engleman’37, Oldest Living P&S Alumnus, Dies at 104

Ephraim Engleman, who celebrated his 104th birthday in March, died Sept. 2 as he had lived, at his desk at the helm of the Rosalind Russell-Ephraim P. Engleman Medical Research Center for Arthritis at UCSF. 

In a life that spanned much of the 20th century and straddled the 21st, he started out as a violinist in the orchestra of a silent movie house, then went on to a stellar career as one of the founding fathers of American rheumatology. His single most significant accomplishment in rheumatology was the leadership role he played as chair of the 18-member National Commission on Arthritis, convened by Congress in 1974 to document the “enormous medical, social, and economic consequences of arthritis on patients and on society in general,” he wrote in an article in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. 

“The longer you live the more goodies you receive,” Dr. Engleman recalled in an alumni profile that appeared in Columbia Medicine. Among the well-earned “goodies” were gold medals from the American College of Rheumatology and the P&S Alumni Association. Others included the Ephraim P. Engleman Distinguished Professorship in Rheumatology, a Medal of Honor, and the renaming of the research center he helped found, the Rosalind Russell-Ephraim P. Engleman Medical Research Center for Arthritis, at UCSF, where he spent the greater part of his career.

Aside from medicine, his greatest passions were his family, particularly his wife of 74 years, Jean, who survives him, and an abiding fondness for the violin, alternating between his prized Stradivarius and one of two Guarneris, which he continued to play solo an hour every day and once a week with the San Andreas Quartet. 

“You could not find someone who loved life more than Dad and he exuded that,” said his son, Edgar Engleman’71, professor of medicine and pathology at Stanford, who was quoted in the San Francisco Gate. “He was always planning and preparing for projects, and he was always optimistic.” 

A friend of long standing, Lee Goldman, who chaired the Department of Medicine at UCSF before becoming P&S dean, saluted him in 2007, at age 96, when he dashed up to the podium to accept the Alumni Gold Medal for Excellence in Clinical Medicine: “No one has done more for rheumatology and with more grace than Eph Engleman. Like a maestro on the violin, which he is, he has pulled the strings that have shaped modern approaches to arthritic diseases.”

Dr. and Mrs. Engleman made a generous bequest toward a named scholarship fund at P&S. 

Dr. Engleman is also survived by a daughter, Jill, another son, Philip, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.