Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, April 29, 2011

Obituaries for Gerald Keeler, Marilyn Jane Baker

Click here to read the obituary for Marilyn Jane Baker

Gerald Keeler

Gerald Keeler, professor of environmental health sciences and of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, died April 12 after a long battle with cancer. He was 51.

An environmental researcher and teacher who had global impact, Keeler's work focused on the sources and fate of trace elements and other pollutants and their impacts on human health and the environment, and the development of new measurement and analytical tools. He was a leading expert on air pollution and mercury issues, working with a range of state, federal and international agencies. 

A native of Burnt Hills, N.Y., Keeler attended Boston College, where he played collegiate basketball, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1982. He continued his studies at U-M, receiving his Master of Science degree in 1983 and his doctorate in 1987, both in atmospheric sciences. He returned to Boston in 1987 as a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, during which time he also served as visiting scientist at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory in Cambridge.

In 1990 Keeler returned to U-M as an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health (SPH), and as director of the U-M Air Quality Laboratory. An enthusiastic teacher and rigorous scientist, he took on a variety of responsibilities. From 1990-2000, he served as director of the EPA Air Pollution Training Center at U-M, overlapping with another position he held as a research scientist with the Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences. At U-M he became associate professor in SPH and the College of Engineering (CoE) in 1996, and was promoted to professor in 2003, with appointments in SPH, CoE and Department of Geological Sciences in LSA.

"Jerry personified scholarship and interdisciplinarity at the University of Michigan," says his colleague Martin Philbert, dean of SPH. "He was passionate about his teaching, his students and his research. As a collaborator, he was exceptional and his work stands as a testament to Jerry's dedication to the proposition of excellence in science in the service of public health."

During his 20-year career as a faculty member, Keeler mentored and served as principal adviser to more than 40 master's and doctoral students.

Keeler's research was global. He went to the Arctic to study mercury, to the Florida Everglades to study the ecosystem and to Lake Michigan to study the travel patterns of airborne particulates. He was a member of the Michigan Mercury Electric Utility Workgroup, the Michigan Governor's Relative Risk Task Force on Air Quality, the Environmental Advisory Council of the Michigan DEQ, and the Michigan Environmental Science Board. He also provided expertise to the states of Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin. Not long before his death, he contributed to a report by the United Nations Environment Program's global partnership on atmospheric mercury transport and fate research.

"Jerry was an extremely important voice in the national debate over mercury in the environment," says Perry Samson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric Science and associate chair of the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. "The United States EPA has proposed the first national standard for emissions of mercury from coal-burning power plants. Few would deny that this is a part of Jerry's legacy. His work has done so much to identify sources of mercury in the atmosphere, and helped to lead to pollution controls that will improve health for many people. His work will live on, in part because of the high quality of the work itself and in part because of the quality of the students he has prepared."

Keeler published more than 100 papers in peer-review journals while teaching a variety of graduate and undergraduate environmental, atmospheric and climate change courses. He was an adviser to a variety of national and international organizations, programs and journals. He received numerous awards, including the Research Partnership Award from the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the Excellence in Research Award and Alumni Merit Award from CoE. He served on numerous national committees and was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Meteorological Society, the International Society of Exposure Analysis, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for Aerosol Research.

Keeler is survived by his wife of 27 years, Joanne, and his children Ryan, Kevin and Meghan. A memorial service was held April 17. Contributions in his memory may be made to Arbor Hospice.

— Submitted by Terri Weinstein Mellow, School of Public Health


Marilyn Jane Baker

Marilyn Jane Baker died April 20 at the Ann Arbor home she had shared with Deane, her husband of 59 years. Deane Baker is a U-M regent emeritus.

The couple met in Evanston, Ill., where Marilyn earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University following an associate's degree from Columbia College, Mo. They reconnected in Oakland, Calif., where she was a medical laboratory technician and he an Air Force lieutenant. He proposed under the Bay Bridge. She provided a loving and open home at every station of their life, from Enid Air Force Base in Oklahoma, to Lexington, Mass., to Lubbock, Texas, then to Ada, Mich., and, later Ann Arbor.

A constant and eclectic reader, she loved words and ideas. She observed world affairs, local politics and the smallest details of the natural world with equal intensity and intelligence. She devoured classics and history and found delight and solace in poetry. A skilled cook, she nurtured the bonds formed by sharing meals around her generous table. Her cinnamon rolls are legendary with her grandchildren John, Kyle, Kate and Matt Knauss, and Ben Baker Barg.

Her ministry as a member of First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor was quiet and profound, especially her prayer. Worship there sustained her; the music transported her. She shared her wisdom and her love of Jesus as deacon, elder, tutor and Sunday school teacher.

Born Feb. 16, 1926, in Tampico, Mexico, to Paul and Brownie Hesse, and raised between the oil camps of Venezuela and a Baptist boarding school in Texas, she learned independence early. She carried a special love for the people, language and tropical rhythms of her Maracaibo childhood.

Preceded in death by her son John, she is survived by her husband, Deane Baker; daughters Jamie Knauss of San Marino, Calif.; Wendy Baker of Yakima, Wash.; and Betsy Baker of Easton, N.H.; her five grandchildren and her brother, Jarvis Hesse of Dallas, Texas.

She was buried April 23 in Forest Hills Cemetery, in a family graveside service. Her memorial will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 29, at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the U-M Cancer Fund, the American Bible Society, or Alzheimer's Disease Research.

— Submitted by Betsy Baker