Obituary: H. William “Bill” Schnaper, MD, Former SLCH/WashU Pediatric Fellow and Faculty Member

Bill Schnaper

Pediatric nephrologist H. William “Bill” Schnaper, MD, associate chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University, died on November 19, 2020, at 70 years of age following a long illness. 

Bill came to St. Louis Children’s Hospital/Washington University in 1980 and completed a fellowship in pediatric nephrology, after which he joined the faculty here.  He went on to spend four years in the extracellular matrix laboratory of Hynda Kleinman at the NIDR, NIH, and then joined the faculty at Northwestern, Lurie Children’s Hospital – Pediatrics, in 1994.

He was president of the American Society for Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) from 2010 to 2012.  He received the ASPN Founder’s Award in 2018 for lifetime achievement and contributions to the field of pediatric nephrology.  Bill studied mechanisms of kidney fibrosis and made seminal scientific contributions to the study of glomerular diseases in children and adults.  The ASPN just announced they will honor Bill with the H. William Schnaper Honorary Lecture at their annual meeting, in conjunction with the Pediatric Academic Societies. 

Colleagues remember Bill for his love of family, his enthusiasm for pediatric nephrology and science, and compassion for his patients.

“WashU has lost a family member. Our pediatric nephrology list-serve has filled up with many eulogies stressing what a wonderful human being he was – my experience also.  I remember sending him an archived WashU photo of himself.  He replied immediately, saying it gave him a chuckle to see his younger self, and reminded him of the many fond memories of his time at WashU.”

Vikas Dharnidharka, MD, MPH, director of WashU Pediatric Nephrology, Hypertension and Pheresis.

“Bill was one of my attendings during my intern year at SLCH/WashU, inspiring us by his kindness and clinical skills.  He was a tough act to follow in so many ways.  He will be missed.  Condolences to his family, as well as to his colleagues (all of us).”

S. Paul Hmiel, MD, PhD, professor, WashU Pediatrics, Nephrology.

“From the first I met him as he interviewed for a fellowship with Alan Robson and me, I knew Bill was a special person. Little did I know how special!  Intellectually curious, he brought to our Renal Division at WashU a breadth of knowledge and urgency in learning that propelled us all on to greater academic achievement.

“His supreme empathy to all, be it patients and their families or nurses and colleagues was a blessing.  As a faculty person with us, his clarity in teaching, from students to fellows, made him a desired mentor.  After he left WashU and studied at the NIH, his career soared at Northwestern University.

“And he was fun!  Whether it was performing his guitar-accompanied songs for our celebrations or serving ice cream at a Renal Division gala, he lightened our load.  I am so pleased that I can name Bill as a close friend.  As a guest in the house of Bill and Maria, I was known as ‘Aunt Dr. Barbara’ by their children, and they named me godmother to their youngest child.  Throughout the years, I followed his stellar career with great admiration.  Bill was truly a Renaissance man.  He was cherished and admired in life, and the blessing of his life and friendship will go with us through our days.  As with all teachers, his influence will ripple through generations, and we are grateful.” 

Barbara Cole, MD, former director of Pediatric Nephrology at SLCH/WashU (1988 to 2001).

“Few people inspire a spirit of inquiry and humanism in pretty much everyone they meet and wherever they go.  Bill was one of those people.  He bestowed his humble, humorous grace among us and supported more of us than he knew.  He was ‘contagious’ in that way—a great gift and already missed.  My condolences to his family – Maria, his children and grandchildren – and to his friends and our community.”

Julie Ingelfinger, MD, professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, a pediatric nephrologist who trained at SLCH/WashU prior to Bill and knew him as a friend and colleague through their common field and interests.

“Few people are as universally loved and respected as Bill.  He was truly amazing.   A few years ago, I met the parents of a 30-something young man with cystinosis.  They were from St. Louis, where Bill had been both a fellow and faculty member.  I asked them if they had interacted with Bill.  Their eyes lit up.  The mother, with a tear streaming down her face, said, ‘Dr. Schnaper saved our son’s life’.”

Larry Greenbaum, MD, PhD, chief, Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Emory School of Medicine, a friend and colleague.

Bill is survived by his wife, Maria, and his children, Adrienne (Kevin McGarr), Michael (Maureen) and Owen (Emily), seven grandchildren, and a sister and brother-in-law. 

Please read more about Bill in his obituary on the Weinstein & Piser Funeral Home website.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a private graveside service will be held.  However, the service will be live-streamed on Tuesday, December 1, at 10 am CST, on the Weinstein & Piser Funeral Home Facebook page.

Our condolences go out to Bill’s family and to those lucky enough to consider him a friend and colleague.

You can find Drs. Dharndika, Hmiel, Ingelfinger, and Greenbaum, and WashU Nephrology and WashU Pediatric Nephology on Twitter: @Vikas_R_D, @sphmiel, @jingelfinger, @Larrypedkid, @WashUNephrology, @WashU_PedsNeph.