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Environmental Factor, November 2012

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Memorial to Frank Kari dedicated at University of Illinois

By Eddy Ball

Frank  Kari is remembered at waterside gardens in Illinois.

Kari is remembered at waterside gardens in Illinois, above, and North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Steven Clinton)

The new walkway takes visitors around the ponds and through the forests surrounding them.

The new walkway takes visitors around the ponds and through the forests surrounding them.

Frank Kari, Ph.D.

A robust Kari before his illness (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Following the untimely death in 2007 of NIEHS/NTP toxicologist Frank Kari, Ph.D., at age 55, friends at NIEHS planted a red bud tree in his honor in the Institute’s lakeside memorial gardens (see story) and later installed a plaque in his memory. Today, that tree thrives in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and, farther north, visitors are enjoying more of the University of Illinois (UI) Arboretum, thanks to his family’s support of the Dr. Frank W. Kari Walkway and Ponds Restoration Project.

In an Oct. 1 message to several of Kari’s longtime friends, including NTP research physiologist Jef French, Ph.D., Steven Clinton, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center announced the dedication Sept. 27 of a walkway around the once neglected Arboretum ponds, which were restored with funds from the project.

“The Frank W. Kari Walkway and Ponds Restoration project provides a look at various types of native plant communities found in Illinois,” Clinton wrote. “Work on the ponds involved removing invasive plants and cattails, grading and mulching the banks, planting new beds along the banks, and installing over 26,000 plantings. In addition to the walkway, native plants and trees were planted adjacent to the ponds, and benches and educational signs were placed along the walkway. An endowment provides ongoing care for the plants, signs and walkway.”

When he died March 26, 2007, Kari had worked for NIEHS and NTP for 21 years. His final two years were spent in declining health, as he struggled with a rare variant of multiple myeloma known as plasma cell leukemia. During this period, he participated as a volunteer in clinical research trials and underwent multiple courses of chemotherapy, as well as a stem cell transplant.

As he concluded his message, Clinton described Kari as a gifted researcher with a unique ability to dissect and interpret scientific data. “As a mentor, he impacted many in training, serving as an extraordinary role model, maintaining a youthful and inquisitive approach to research, while always embracing new concepts or technology,” Clinton wrote. “His life was also enriched by numerous and diverse interests, ranging from traditional and bluegrass music, stained glass artistry, and woodworking. Most notably, Dr. Kari's lasting legacy is the devotion to his family and the treasured friendship he provided to so many, which profoundly defined the character of the man.”

Frank Kari memorial plaque in NIEHS's wall of memory

Along with the tree planted in tribute to Kari, his friends at NIEHS and NTP later placed a plaque on the wall of memory in the garden on campus. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jef French, Ph.D., and Betsy Kennington

NIEHS volunteer biologist Betsy Kennington, center, and French placed the first few shovelfuls of dirt, as they planted Kari’s tree in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Eddy Ball)

A rich life in science and a dedication to public health

By Steven Clinton

Frank Kari was born in Evanston, Ill., and attended the University of Illinois (UI), where he received his B.S. and later completed his Ph.D. in the Division of Nutritional Sciences in 1981. After finishing his undergraduate work in 1974, he worked as a chemist for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, prior to returning to UI for his graduate training in 1977.

Kari conducted his thesis work under the mentorship of Willard Visek, Ph.D., currently a professor emeritus in the UI department of food science and human nutrition. Kari established a research program focusing upon the role of diet and nutrition in modulating the host response to environmental toxins and carcinogens, a theme that would resonate throughout his research career.

Following his training at UI, Kari pursued postdoctoral studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) as a recipient of a National Cancer Institute Fellowship in the laboratory of the late Ron Thurmond, Ph.D. In 1985, Kari was recruited to NIEHS as a research toxicologist in the National Toxicology Program. He later also became an adjunct assistant professor in the UNC-CH department of nutrition. During his career, Kari contributed to over 60 peer-reviewed journal publications, reviews, book chapters, and NTP Technical Reports.

Kari enthusiastically reviewed scientific manuscripts for leading journals and gave numerous invited lectures and seminars. For his accomplishments, he received recognition and a number of awards from the U.S. Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, and NIEHS.

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