NAZARETH GENGOZIAN, Ph.D.
Dr. Nazareth Gengozian, 91, originally from Racine and a resident of Oak Ridge, Tenn., passed
away at Canterfield of Oak Ridge on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.
He had reLred 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 Feb. 13, 1929, in Racine, the son of Dikran and Yeghsapert Gengozian,
who had immigrated to this country from Armenia. He attended Horlick High School where he
was a star football player and also 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. It was a journey that began shortly after he left high school.
Married to his cross-town high school sweetheart, Leona Berven, who graduated from Park
High, Nazareth and his wife would spend the next eight years in Madison as he pursued his
education, graduaLng from the University of Wisconsin in 1955 with a Ph.D. in Immunology.
He was the only one in the Gengozian famly of five children who attended college, taking
numerous odd jobs to support his education and his family, which included his two sons born
while he was in school.
In 1955 he also moved his family south to Oak Ridge, where he began his career in research as a
Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He was placed on staff as a
biologist in 1958. In 1961 he was named Chief Scientist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities
(ORAU) with the direction to develop a basic bone marrow transplant program. His research in
using radiation as a factor in promoting transplantation ultimately led to the first successful
clinical marrow transplant in Tennessee of a leukemia paLent in 1973.
It was also in 1961 that Dr. Gengozian began working with the South American marmoset
monkey in his research, building a colony of marmosets in Oak Ridge that grew to almost 400 by
1980. His work with marmosets opened up other research opportunities, demonstrating the
value of this species in the study of transplantation and immunology.
While still leading the marmoset research center, he also became a Ford Foundation Professor
at the University of Tennessee in 1968, teaching the first graduate level immunology course at
the University, which he continued unLl 1976. In that role he mentored some 18 fellows and
graduate students, many of whom became noted immunologists, researchers and professors in
their own right.
Funding for Dr. Gengozian's marmoset research programs came from a variety of sources over
the years. Most notably he was supported by the NaLonal Institutes of Health, the U.S.
Aerospace Medical Division, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health
Organization, among others.
In 1981, Dr. Gengozian took a position with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, in a newly
established immunology program at Oklahoma Medical Research FoundaLon in Okahoma City,
Okla. While there, and collaborating with other scientists, he learned and developed a new
technique for the production of monoclonal anLbodies, proteins capable of identifying selective
populations of cells.
In 1992, Dr. Gengozian joined the Thompson Cancer Survival Center in Knoxville, as Director of
the Stem Cell Laboratory. The new posiLon brought him back home to East Tennessee, and also
included a professorship at the University of Tennessee.
In addiLon to basic research, Dr. Gengozian developed technical procedures for the isolaLon
and storage of blood stem cells to be used in the treatment of cancer paLents suffering
hematologic malignancies. The procedure involved removing and freezing a patient's blood
stem cells in sufficient quanLty, and then transplanLng those cells back into the patient after
cancerous cells had been eradicated with chemotherapy.
Over the course of his 52-year career, Dr. Gengozian published 140 research papers, contributed
chapters in four books, and co-edited a book on Primates in Experimental Medicine He also
served on the editorial board of Transplantion and was an associate editor of Journal of Medical
Dr. Gengozian's career was featured in an arLcle The Oak Ridger in 2017. The arLcle was part of
the Historically Speaking series by D. Ray Smith, enLtled "ORAU's Chief Scientist: Nazareth
Gengozian." Additional details on Dr. Gengozian's work is included there.
Dr. Gengozian's work was his passion, but he always found Lme for friends and family and was a
devoted husband and father. In his spare Lme, 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. Dr.
Gengozian was also an avid football fan, embracing the Tennessee Volunteers as his team
(particularly football and the Lady Vols), but never overlooking his Wisconsin Badgers or the
Green Bay Packers. 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, and Gary of Fort Payne, Ala.;
daughter Leslie Gengozian of Knoxvile; 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., and 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 her
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 KaLe 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 other extended family members.
The family wants to thank the caretakers he has had over the years at Canterfield of Oak Ridge,
the services provided by Caris Healthcare and Home Options, and specifically Vicki Braden and
Due to the current pandemic, the family will schedule a memorial at a later date. To sign Dr.
Gengozian's guest book, please visit the Martin Oak Ridge Funeral Home website. Memorial gifts should be
directed to St. Mesrob Armenian Church, Racine, Wis., or Fund For Armenia Relief (FAR), or
Thompson Cancer Survival Center, Knoxville, Tenn.
Martin Oak Ridge Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.