Nazareth Gengozian, Ph.D.
2/13/1929 – 12/30/2020
OAK RIDGE – Dr. Nazareth Gengozian, 91, originally from Racine and a resident of Oak Ridge, Tenn., passed away at Canterfield of Oak Ridge, on December 30, 2020.
He retired in 2006 as Director of the Stem Cell Laboratory at Thompson Cancer Survival Center and Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Dr. Gengozian was born February 13, 1929 in Racine, the son of Dikran and Yeghsapert Gengozian, who immigrated to this country from Armenia. He attended Horlick High School where he was a star football player and a violinist. A song he co-wrote with his sister became an unofficial anthem for his class of 1947.
In 1997 he was honored by Horlick alumni at the 50th reunion of the class of '47 as one of their most distinguished graduates. He married his high school sweetheart, Leona Berven, who graduated from Park High. Nazareth and his wife spent the next eight years in Madison as he pursued his education, graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1955 with a Ph.D. in Immunology. He was the only one of five children who attended college, taking odd jobs to support his education and his family, which included two sons born while he was in school.
He then moved his family south to Oak Ridge, where he began his career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). By 1961 he was Chief Scientist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), assigned to develop a basic bone marrow transplant program. His research ultimately led to the first successful clinical marrow transplant in Tennessee of a leukemia patient in 1973.
It was also 1961 when Dr. Gengozian began working with the South American marmoset monkey, building a colony of marmosets in Oak Ridge that grew to almost 400 by 1980. His study with marmosets opened up other research opportunities, demonstrating the value of this species in the study of transplantation and immunology.
While leading the Marmoset Research Center, he became a Ford Foundation Professor at the University of Tennessee in 1968, teaching the first graduate level immunology course at the University. He mentored some 18 fellows and graduate students, many of whom became noted immunologists, researchers and professors in their own right.
Dr. Gengozian joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute in 1981. Collaborating with other scientists, they developed a new technique for the production of monoclonal antibodies, proteins capable of identifying selective populations of cells.
In 1992, Dr. Gengozian became Director of the Stem Cell Laboratory at Thompson Cancer Survival Center. The position brought him back to East Tennessee, and included a professorship at the University of Tennessee.
During his 52-year career, Dr. Gengozian published 140 research papers, contributed chapters in four books, and co-edited the book on Primates in Experimental Medicine. He also served on the editorial board of Transplantion and was an associate editor of Journal of Medical Primatology.
Dr. Gengozian's work was his passion, but he always found time for friends and family and was a devoted husband and father. He and his wife Leona shared a love of art, good books, music and antique collecting, passing along many of those interests to their children. He was known for his generosity and humility, his love of family, and for his dedication to science.
Dr. Gengozian was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 61 years, Leona (Berven) Gengozian of Racine, Wis.; brothers John and Pete, sisters Mary Kelegian and Nuresa Harvey, and cousin Nishan Hacherian, who was like a brother to him, all of Racine; daughters in law Cathy (Ziehlke) Gengozian of Oak Ridge and Jennifer (Whaley) Gengozian of Fort Payne, Ala; and nephew Mickey Rath of Racine.
He is survived by his two sons, David of Oak Ridge and wife Pat, Gary of Fort Payne, Ala.; daughter Leslie Gengozian of Knoxville; granddaughters Dana Rose and husband Ted, of Bradenton, Fla., Lauren Gengozian and husband Jake Hamby of Mesa, Ariz., Abby Evans and husband Joe, of Hixson, Tenn.; great-grandchildren Casey Rose of Bradenton, Fla., Stella, Emmett and Hank Gengozian of Mesa, Ariz.; sisters in law Mary Gengozian of Racine and Lorraine Wangerin of Oak Creek, Wis.
He is also survived by nieces and nephews originally from the Racine area, including Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, his wife Judy and their children Talene, and Marisa Kelegian- O'Gorman, and husband Patrick; Anoush Kelegian; Kerri Hodge, her children Michael and his wife Kandice, and daughter Amanda; Dan Rath, his wife MaryKay and their children Dr. Emily Miller and husband Andrew, and Katie and Chelsea; Sue Bertone, her husband Rich and their children Jonathan and Sofia; Liz Gengozian; John Gengozian, his wife Dawn and their son Kyle; Mark Gengozian, his wife Lori and children Feather and Nicholas; Mark Eckblad and his wife Judy; John Eckblad and his wife Marjorie; James Eckblad and his wife Mary Ann; Nancy (Eckblad) and husband Mike Petee; Peter Eckblad and his wife Sally Hoelzel; and numerous extended family members.
The family thanks Canterfield of Oak Ridge, Caris Healthcare and Home Options, and especially Vicki Braden and Corey Kirby.
The family will schedule a memorial at a later date. To sign Dr. Gengozian's guest book, please visit the Martin Funeral Home website. Memorial gifts should be directed to St. Mesrob Armenian Church, Racine, Wis., the Fund For Armenia Relief (FAR), or Thompson Cancer Survival Center, Knoxville, Tenn.
Published by Racine Journal Times on Jan. 27, 2021.