Paul B. Ferrara, distinguished professor in forensic science, dies at age 68
Ferrara pioneered Virginia’s use of DNA testing in criminal investigations
University Public Affairs
Paul B. Ferrara, distinguished professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Forensic Science and former director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, died Monday, May 30, from complications of cancer. He was 68.
Ferrara retired as director of the state Department of Forensic Science in 2006, after a 21-year career that helped to establish Virginia as a leader in using DNA testing in criminal investigations. In 1989, Ferrara led Virginia’s efforts to become the first state with a DNA laboratory capable of conducting DNA fingerprinting. The same year, Virginia became the first state to create a DNA database of previously convicted sex offenders.
“It's no secret that Dr. Ferrara was a giant in his field; his list of ‘firsts’ is simply astonishing,” said Stephen D. Gottfredson, Ph. D., professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and former provost and vice president for academic affairs. “What fewer people know is the extraordinary debt that we at VCU owe to Paul for his strong commitment to the development and credibility of our programs in forensic science.”
Ferrara was a member, co-author and consultant to the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council Reports on the “Use of DNA Technology in Forensic Science” (1992 and 1996.) He was a member and chairman of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board (1992-1996), which is the only international accrediting body for forensic science laboratories.
In 1994, Ferrara was appointed to the FBI's DNA Advisory Board, representing state-operated forensic science laboratory operations. In 1998, he was named to then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno's Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence.
In 2001, Ferrara received the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors’ Briggs White Award, recognizing excellence through leadership in forensic science management. In 2002, he was named to U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft's Working Group on DNA Laboratory Analysis Backlog Reduction.
Gottfredson said Ferrara’s impact on the forensic science program at VCU continues today.
“Paul was absolutely instrumental in helping us to achieve one of the strongest bench-science based forensic science programs in the country. We could not have succeeded without the support of our distinguished colleague -- and my friend -- Paul Ferrara,” Gottfredson said.
Ferrara is survived by his wife Dale and three sons: Mark S. Ferrara of Oneonta, N.Y., Paul G. Ferrara of Des Moines, Iowa, and Anthony D. Ferrara of Richmond.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.