Early Life and Education

Arrel Toews was born on July 22, 1948 in Enid, OK to David and Rosa Toews. His forebears (great-grandparents and some grandparents) emigrated from South Russia (currenlty Ukraine) to the US in the 1870s, settling on farmland in NE, KS, and OK. He grew up on a wheat and cattle farm near Kremlin, OK and early on learned the value of hard work. Along with his older brother Galen and younger brother Myron, Arrel raised sheep (a flock of about 100 ewes and 5 rams, with about 150 lambs each year) and sold the lambs and wool to help finance their college educations.


He attended Kremlin Public Schools, then Tabor College (a very small college in Hillsboro, KS affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Church) and subsequently graduated in 1970 with a BA in Chemistry and a minor in Math. Arrel then completed his graduate studies (1970-1974) in the Department of Physiological Chemistry at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, working with Dr. Lloyd Horrocks studying lipid and myelin metabolism. His dissertation examined the effects of spinal cord injury on myelin. He also worked on various aspects of myelin lipid and protein metabolism, including enzyme markers for myelin. Following graduation, he supervised Dr. Horrocks’ lab for 18 months while he was on sabbatical leave in Strasbourg, France.


In the summer of 1971, Arrel married his wife Kathy, who is from the Oklahoma Panhandle – they recently celebrated their 43rd


wedding anniversary. Kathy worked for many years at the UNC Management Company, which manages the UNC-Chapel Hill endowment funds, as well as endowments for other UNC campuses. She retired in 2012. Arrel and Kathy have two grown daughters, Erin and Laura. Erin is a pediatric nurse at UVA Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, VA and Laura is an adult oncology nurse at Georgetown Hospitals in Washington, DC. Laura is currently also in graduate school at the


University of Maryland-Baltimore, working on her MSN in Nurse Education. Erin is married to David Lemon and they have two sons, Austin Jacob (4) and Benjamin Arrel (1). Now that Arrel and Kathy are both retired, they are looking forward to spending more time with their family, including those two grandsons.

Arrel’s older brother Galen was, until his untimely death in 2011, the Head of the Pulmonary Division and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, MI. Myron is currently a Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE.


Arrel came to UNC in 1977 as an Environmental Pathology Fellow, working under the direction of Pierre Morell (Biochemistry) and Martin Krigman (Pathology), and has been at UNC ever since. His initial research involved examining the effects of heavy metal exposure on myelin integrity and most all of his work has been in the area of neurochemistry. Among other projects, he examined the axonal transport of proteins and lipids in both CNS and PNS and various aspects of the biochemistry, molecular and cell biology and pathology of demyelination and remyelination in both CNS and PNS. Virtually all of his research at UNC was in collaboration with Pierre Morell until his untimely death in 2003, as well as Glenn Matsushima in the later years. Arrel has 62 publications in refereed journals and 16 chapters in books. As an example of his collegiality and generous spirit, he would be the first to note that none of his research could have been carried out without the advice, assistance, support, and mentoring of his valued colleagues.

Teaching and Service

Arrel has always enjoyed teaching and has worked hard to do as much of it as possible throughout his professional career, which at UNC spanned 37 years. His formal teaching began as a sophomore in college when he was a teaching assistant for an earth science class. He subsequently served as a TA each remaining semester in various biology and chemistry courses. During graduate school, he served for two years as a tutor in the “Personalized System of Instruction” Biochemistry program for first-year medical students.

He began his teaching activities in the department at UNC in 1980 with teaching Biochem 100L, a biochemistry lab techniques course. Shortly after, he became involved in medical student teaching, initially by helping with lab and small group exercises, but soon as a lecturer also (1997-2014). He has been the course director for “Introduction to Biochemistry” – Biochem 107 (1995-2013) and Biochem 108 (1992-2014), and given almost all of the lectures. He has also been heavily involved in medical student education, giving lectures, managing small group sessions, and helping develop new curricula. He also lectured to first-year dental students and has been the course director for the Biochemistry course in the summer Medical Education Development (M.E.D.) Program since 2001. He was a Medical School Teaching Scholar during the 2005-2006 academic year and was an inaugural Medical School Teaching Champion from 2011 until his retirement. Arrel also served 2 terms on the UNC Faculty Council and on the UNC Medical School Admissions Committee (2009-2013) and Student Promotions Committee (2011-2014).


Most notably, Arrel has been awarded all of the university-wide teaching excellence awards he has been eligible for, and graciously shares credit for much of those achievements to the guidance and mentoring of his fellow faculty colleagues. These teaching awards include the James M. Johnston Teaching Excellence Award (1996), the William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Teaching Excellence Award (2003), and the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2009). He was also selected for the “Faculty of the Year” Award by the UNC Student National Medicine Association in 2008. In 2009, he was selected by the UNC medical students to present the Richard H. Whitehead Lecture, one of the highest honors bestowed by UNC medical students. He has enjoyed all of his teaching duties and worked hard to do well by them. Not being able to teach students and help change their lives is what he will miss most during his retirement.