John Colter is a member of an Alberta family that has distinguished itself in the academic and medical professions. Following a path traveled by many young Albertan scientists over a number of generations, he used a BSc in Honors Chemistry at the University of Alberta as a springboard to graduate studies. In John's case, he moved to McGill, where he obtained his PhD in 1951. John then developed an international reputation for virus research while on the staff of Lederle Laboratories and subsequently at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. A transforming event for the University of Alberta was his recruitment, in 1961, to head the Department of Biochemistry. John was eventually to serve in this capacity for twenty-six years, until his retirement in 1987. During this time, he built an outstanding department that has become recognized throughout the world of biomedical research.