AFS-USA honors the legacy of returnee Guido Guidotti, Italy to U.S. 1950.

Guido first came to the U.S. from Naples, Italy, as an AFS student in 1950. He attended Decatur High School in Illinois and was hosted by Ralph and Dot Williams. The DHS class of 1951 sponsored and raised funds for Guido to arrive, making him the very first AFS exchange student brought to Decatur following World War II.    

Lucien Kapp, close friend to Guido and fellow member of the DHS class of 1951, recalls greeting Guido at the railroad station in Illinois “Our job was to make him feel at home and give him the experiences of an American teenager… [at that time] I didn’t realize what a scholar Guido was!”  

Guido excelled academically and fully immersed himself in the DHS community during his exchange year. He took challenging courses and was inducted into the National Honor Society, became a member of the flag squad, served as a sergeant at arms for the student council, and was voted “most friendly” in the Decanois yearbook. Lucien remembers Guido’s love of music and his tuning into the Saturday afternoon broadcast of symphonies, yet his peers made sure he experienced the joys of being an “average American teen” and invited him to join outings like going to the local Steak & Shake on the lake.

Guido had a well-rounded experience in his American high school, and after a brief return to Italy, he came back to the U.S. to complete pre-medical requirements at Millikin University. This was made possible through the generosity of his host family, the Williams, and a group of local donors who sponsored his collegiate studies. A lifelong bond of love and loyalty remained between the Williams, Guido, and his family in the U.S. and Italy.

He was accepted into Washington University Medical School where he obtained his M.D. and did an internship and residency in internal medicine. Guido then went on to Rockefeller University and earned a PhD in 1963, after which he went to Harvard University as an Assistant Professor. In 1969 he was granted tenure at Harvard and was the Higgins Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology until his death in April 2021.

During his career spanning more than 60 years, Guido pioneered scientific research to understand how proteins embedded in biological membranes perform their physiological functions in transport and signal processing. Guido was a giant in this field and his discoveries lit up the research community.

Guido trained in his laboratory roughly 100 undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students and was renowned as a teacher of Harvard undergraduate students. He had a passion for educating and was described as an inspiring mentor and professor whose smile could light up a room.

A detailed summary of Guido’s extensive research and documentation of other aspects of his life, plus comments from many of his students and colleagues, can be found here.

Guido’s legacy is marked by scientific discovery, a passion to educate, and, foremost, a strong commitment to his family. He is survived by his brother Mario and Mario’s wife Ludi Borello; their daughter Alice and her two children Gaia and Fabio; Guido’s son Guido, Jr., his wife Anna Yoo and their son Nicholas Yoo Guidotti; and Nancy Kleckner, his soul mate, wife, and Harvard colleague for more than 40 years.

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