Rick Turner obituary

Born 1957, died 2021. A graduate of the Department of Psychology.

Rick Turner

John Rick Turner, 64, fondly known as Rod or Rick, passed away at his home in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Saturday 30 October 2021.

He was born in Stourbridge, England (UK) on 12 July 1957 to Margaret Astbury Turner and the late Joseph Raymond Turner. In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by his uncle Mike and aunt Janet Astbury and his mother-in-law Kathleen Harrison Thompson.

Rick is survived by his beloved wife Karen Harrison Turner, his mother Margaret Astbury Turner, his many cousins in the UK with whom he kept in regular contact, his brother-in-law Roger Harrison and wife Dianna and their son Brandon, and many friends and colleagues. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

He enjoyed several generations of pampered cats which added immense joy and inspiration to his life.

Rick graduated with a BSc (Honours) in Psychology in 1979 from the University of Sheffield (UK), earned a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from Sheffield Hallam University (UK) in 1980, obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 1984 based on his dissertation entitled 'Heart Rate Responses to Psychological Stress'. In 2016, he was awarded the higher doctoral degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) in Cardiovascular Pharmaceutical Medicine from University of Sheffield (UK) based on his application dossier detailing his scholarly activities from 1985-2015.

In 2012, reflecting on his time involved with the University of Sheffield, Rick said: 

My time at the University of Sheffield was wonderful. I loved that the University is integrated with the city (rather than being a relatively isolated campus). When walking from Ranmoor Hall of Residence to the Department of Psychology building I was able to pop into shops on Broomhill for the essentials of a day's studying - Juicy Fruit chewing gum and Cadbury's chocolate. (The liquid refreshment on the way home at the end of the day was kindly provided by the Broomhill Tavern). 

The locals were fantastic and incredibly welcoming, and very shortly I felt much more at home there than where I'd grown up, just outside Birmingham. I still have a very strong fondness for the city. When the University of Sheffield in America started in 2004 as both a social activity and, more importantly, a tax-deductible way for those of us living in the United States to donate to the University, I served on the Board of Directors for four years, and have stayed very actively involved. To date, this branch of the University has donated over $650,000 (around £420,000 pounds sterling) to the University. It feels good to be involved in giving back to the University.”

Rick Turner

Rick and one of the students he supported through a scholarship to the University
Rick and one of the students he supported through a scholarship to the University

Rick held an academic position at the University of Birmingham (UK) - a postdoctoral Fellowship in Psychology. Inspired by academic opportunities in the US, he emigrated in 1987 to hold positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as postdoctoral Fellowship & Research Assistant Professor in Psychiatry; University of California, Berkley as Research Scholar; School of Public Health, University of Tennessee, Memphis as Associate Professor of Paediatrics and Preventative Medicine; and Medical College of Georgia as Associate Professor of Paediatrics until 1996. In 2005 he returned to academia at Campbell University (NC) as Associate Professor of Clinical Research, Drug Safety Scholar, and Chairman, Department of Clinical Research until 2009 and held the position of Adjunct Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences since 2015.

He was employed at GlaxoSmithKline from 2003 to 2005 as a Clinical Submission Scientist, at Quintiles (now IQVIA) from 2009 to 2018 as a Senior Scientific Director, Translational Cardiovascular Safety, Scientific Director, Clinical Communications (Corporate Communications division) and Chief Scientific Advisor, Cardiac Safety Services and at DRT Strategies Inc. from 2018 to 2020 as an Expert Consultant/Federal Contractor assigned to the FDA. Rick was President of his Turner Consulting & Communications company since 1991 in which he wrote and edited scientific and medical publications. Most recently he started working with Chenega Corporation as a Federal Contractor assigned to the FDA.

J. Rick Turner, PhD, DSc was an experimental research scientist, clinical trialist, author, editor, educator, and communicator. He spent the first part of his professional career in the field of cardiovascular behavioral medicine, detailing the individual differences apparent in cardiovascular responses to behavioural and psychological stressors, including genetic influences upon them. He received two international awards for his research and was co-editor of the 2013 Springer volume Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, the definitive work in this area at that time. Over many years he enjoyed collaborating on various Cardiac Safety Research Consortium projects aimed at improving global patient safety and was a former Editor-in-Chief of the DIA’s peer-reviewed Drug Information Journal. His vast experience spanned twenty years in academia, eleven years in the pharmaceutical industry, and over thirty years of scientific and medical writing and publications.

He was the author and co-author of over 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals, as well as articles in professional journals and author, co-author and editor of over 15 books.

Awards and honours include the British Medical Research Council Doctoral Scholarship (1981-1984), Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychophysiology from the Society for Psychophysiological Research (1988), Early Career Award for Contributions to Psychosomatic Medicine from the American Psychosomatic Society (1993) and conferred the Honour of Fellow by the Society of Behavioural Medicine (1999), American Society of Hypertension (2016), now American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology (2016), European Society of Cardiology (2017) and American College of Clinical Pharmacology (2017).

I met Rick when he became a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Sheffield in America. I was impressed by his loyalty to the University and his great philanthropy.

He was always an entertaining companion when we met at the bar and had many wonderful stories of his time in Sheffield. The many anecdotes would always inspire his fellow alumni to reciprocate and contributed greatly to the spirit of the Board and the alumni association. His generosity and warm spirits will be sorely missed. My deepest condolences go out to his wife Karen, whose attendance at the alumni functions will also be greatly missed.

Sir Richard Roberts

(BSc Chemistry 1965, PhD Chemistry 1968, Hon DSc 1994) 1993 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine

When Rick passed away in late October we had known each other for just over 45 years. We met on our first day at the university in September 1976, as we had both been allocated a room on the same corridor in Ranmoor. That randomness was the basis of a life-long friendship that became stronger rather than weaker over the years – even as he emigrated to the US in the mid ’Eighties. We were both only children, and we recognised an attitude and way of looking at the world in each other which I think children with no other siblings would understand.

Rick became the brother that I never had. We celebrated each other’s successes and commiserated during the inevitable knock-backs. Rick was the godfather to my eldest daughter Gabriella, while I was the best man at his wedding to Karen – a marriage which generated the happiness in Rick that he had been looking for all his life.

Rick was a genuinely kind man. He struggled at times with his own mental health, and it made him appreciate, even celebrate, the “imperfections” of others. He was a wonderful mentor. He treated everybody exactly the same, whether Nobel Prize winners (whose company he kept and felt at home with) or the local corner shopkeeper with whom he’d happily chat. People knew that there was no secret side to Rick – there were absolutely no agendas either. He always saw the best in others, and loved the openness of American culture. He felt liberated and welcomed there.  

Rick combined a brilliant intellect, a wonderfully supportive disposition, and a superhuman work ethic. It was no surprise that he enjoyed the career that he did. Others can describe the details of Rick’s world-famous academic success. What I will remember of my life-long brother is his humour; his consistent support of Gabriella; many great times in Sheffield, California, and North Carolina; his hilarious e-mails and phone calls; the enduring happiness he finally found with Karen; and his unstinting friendship. He loved his time at Sheffield, as I did, and the University should be proud that Rick was an undergraduate here.

Roy Jeans

(BA English Literature 1979)

Rick was a truly lovely man. He demonstrated all the best characteristics of a Sheffield graduate: talent, modesty, humour and tremendous loyalty.  

His love of his Alma Mater was deep and I was so honoured to be involved in the award of his Doctor of Science. It was wonderful to be able to host him, his wife Karen and his friends on that very important day - and he looked like he would burst with pride when it was conferred. 

Getting a DSc is a huge achievement and publicly recognises the huge contribution he made to academia and knowledge. His academic publications are a lasting legacy for future generations. Rick will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.

Miles Stevenson

Director of Development (2002-2020)

The University will be forever indebted to Rick for all his hard work and volunteering to support students during his lifetime. Rick was one of the first board members of the newly formed University of Sheffield in America inc. in 2004. A board he served until 2009. Rick also set up the Rick and Karen Turner Scholarships that have supported many disadvantaged students at the University. Everyone at the University who ever met Rick will have the most positive memories of him. He was always a wonderful person to meet and you could see the enjoyment he got whenever he had the opportunity to connect with the University - none more so than when he met the students that had benefited from his generosity. The University will remember Rick with the deepest affection and send condolences to his widow Karen, his friends and family.