Thomas Ray Jerrells

Thomas Ray Jerrells, Ph.D. (AAI ’80) died on May 22, 2018, at the age of 74 after a six-year battle with frontotemporal degeneration-semantic variant (FTDsv)/primary progressive aphasia (PPA). Fellow AAI member, colleague, and friend Garnett Kelsoe, D.Sc. (AAI ’85), Department of Immunology and Human Vaccine Institute, Duke University, authored the following tribute, reflecting his remembrances and those of Dr. Jerrells’s family. AAI gratefully acknowledges the family and Dr. Kelsoe for this submission.

Thomas Ray Jerrells, a specialist in the effects of alcoholism on immunity and a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska Medical Center-Omaha, has died at the age of 74. He was one of three co-founders of the Alcohol and Immunology Research Interest Group (AIRIG), Editor-in-Chief (1999-2004) of Alcohol: An International Biomedical Journal, and an AAI regular member for more than 31 years.

Born in Wickenburg, Arizona, in 1944, Tom Jerrells led a full and exciting life,. He was a collegiate and professional rodeo cowboy who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and served during the Vietnam War. He completed his enlistment as staff sergeant, having served in the Army Medical Department of the Army (AMEDD), one of the Army’s six medical Special Branches. Tom then graduated from the University of Arizona (1972) with a B.S. degree and later took M.S. (1974) and Ph.D. (1976) degrees from Washington State University, Pullman.

Tom began his academic career as a postdoctoral fellow with Ronald Herberman (National Cancer Institute, 1976-1978) and an appointment at Litton Bionetics in Kensington, Maryland. He subsequently accepted a post at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and later joined the Departments of Pathology and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, as an associate professor (1987-1991). In 1991, he was appointed full professor in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport. In 1995, Tom returned to Pullman, Washington, as a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate program. In 1999, Tom left Washington State to serve as a professor in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Tom Jerrells was a bon vivant whose keen instinct for good food, drink, and music was celebrated by his many friends. A long distance runner who could somehow appreciate 50-mile footraces, he also piloted small aircraft, including gliders, and was a scholar/teacher dedicated to helping his students and colleagues.

Tom is survived by his wife of 53 years, Janice, daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Nick Strachota, and granddaughters Cassie and Abby Strachota. Tom Jerrells was a good and valued friend, an honest and decent man, and a scholar deeply concerned about the human tragedy of alcoholism.

He was a man in full.
 
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Colleagues and friends can visit The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to learn about the disease that took Tom from us and make a donation in his name.

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