AAI In Memoriam

Joy Ann Williams

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Staff Scientist Joy Ann Williams, Ph.D. (AAI ’14) died on November 18, 2016, at the age of 55 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. An AAI member since 2014, Dr. Williams was a frequent attendee of the AAI annual meeting, most recently in 2015. In announcing her death to colleagues, National Institute on Aging Director Richard J. Hodes (AAI ’75) shared the following tribute, reflecting his remembrances and those of Dr. Williams’ family. AAI gratefully acknowledges the family and Dr. Hodes for this submission.

I am sorry to share with you the news that Joy Williams died on Friday night, November 18, 2016, after her time with us as a valued friend and colleague, and after a courageous battle with cancer.

Joy was gifted and talented across many dimensions. Born in Arlington, Virginia, she grew up in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, where she graduated from T. C. Williams High School. She obtained bachelor’s degrees in biology and piano performance from the Oberlin College and Conservatory.

Joy pursued her interest in science at the University of Maryland, where she earned her master’s (molecular biology) and Ph.D. (immunology) degrees, the latter in 1998. As a graduate student, she worked at NCI as a pre-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the Lab of Genetics under Mike Potter, then as a biologist in the same lab under her graduate mentor Emily Shacter, and later in the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research on the NIH campus. It was during this time in her life that Joy met her future husband Todd Smyth.

The year after earning her Ph.D., Joy joined my lab in the Experimental Immunology Branch of the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research as a post-doctoral fellow, where she spent four successful years before accepting a position as an FDA regulatory/research scientist on the NIH campus. In 2006, Joy’s love of basic research—and our good fortune—brought her back to my lab as a staff scientist.

Joy had an intense and infectious love of science. She brought intellect and commitment to her work, and was a successful and productive scientist. In Joy’s most recent research, she advanced our understanding of the biology of thymic development and the cross-talk between thymic epithelium and the developing T cell repertoire. Her acknowledged expertise in this research area, both intellectual and technical, made her a resource at NIH as well as to the international immunology community, and she generously helped those who approached her. This generosity and sincere interest in helping others were constants in Joy’s life. Joy was a consummate teacher and mentor. In her years at NIH, she taught courses through the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and at the University of Maryland. Over her years in the lab, post-bacs, postdocs, and colleagues had the good fortune of knowing Joy’s extraordinary ability to teach and inspire via her unique perspectives and sense of humor.

Joy’s love of music also continued throughout her life, marked by performances on piano, on flute, and a bit less professionally on accordion.

Working with all of you as her friends and colleagues was an important source of gratification for Joy always, and was a particular comfort in the difficult recent years, which Joy referred to as “my ultimate scientific experiment.” Joy was a unique and exceptional person, and we miss her deeply.

Along with her husband Todd and their three beloved dogs, Joy Williams’ survivors include her parents Harrison Brownell Williams and Ann Peterson Williams, sister Julie Arrighetti, brother-in-law Craig Arrighetti, and nephew Nicholas Arrighetti.

Gifts in memory of Joy may be directed to support ovarian cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Please make checks payable to Johns Hopkins University. Gifts may be mailed—with a memo indicating that the gift is in memory of Joy Ann Williams, to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, P.O. Box 17029, Baltimore, MD 21297-1029—or made online at https://secure.jhu.edu/form/kimmel.

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