Beverly Joyce Paigen, Ph.D., died peacefully in her home overlooking Long Pond on Mount Desert Island on June 26, 2020. She was surrounded by family. She was 81 years old. Her husband of 50 years, Kenneth Paigen, predeceased her by five months. Bev was born in 1938 in Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree in zoology (magna cum laude) from Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1960 and her Ph.D. in biology from the State University of New York, Buffalo, in 1967.
Bev was a prolific scientist, publishing 241 scientific papers over the course of her career and mentoring generations of young scientists, particularly women. She revolutionized the study of heart disease and pioneered the promotion of the mouse for cardiovascular research. She designed a special diet, the “Paigen Diet,” which was a pivotal contribution to modeling atherosclerosis in mice. Bev rejected that name, believing it “put women back in the kitchen.” She was also an early adopter of computational biology and statistical genetics.
Over her career, Bev received numerous awards and accolades. She held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo and Rachel Carson College at SUNY Buffalo from 1967 to 1982, after which she became research biochemist and then senior research biochemist at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif. In 1989, she moved to The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor as professor. Bev is the recipient of awards from the National Institutes of Health, The Jackson Laboratory, and The Center for Health, Environment and Justice and the People’s Action Institute, among others.
Bev was a pioneer in the environmental movement, providing crucial scientific expertise on the health effects of hazardous waste on the community, especially children. Her scientific activism during the Love Canal controversy of the late 1970s advocated for citizens in the face of government inaction. In 1978, she began gathering scientific evidence exposing the adverse human health impacts of the Love Canal toxic waste dump in New York state. With great courage and at personal and professional sacrifice, Bev spoke out about the human suffering at Love Canal. As a result of her scientific work and moral convictions, the entire affected community received relocation benefits. Her work served as a catalyst for the EPA’s Superfund program, which cleans up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites.
A nature lover, Bev enjoyed bird watching and mushroom gathering. She traveled the world with her family and, with her husband and love of her life, Ken, sailed the entire coast of Downeast Maine. With Ken, Bev created a family full of love, generosity and laughter. Many a family member, conference attendee or anonymous restaurant patron will forever remember her infectious and uproarious laughter, a sound big and wonderful enough to fill the Kennedy Center. Bev was a careful, caring and loving listener, providing unconditional love and support to anyone and everyone who came into her life. She was relentless in the pursuit of doing the right thing.
She is survived by her five children, Susan, Gina, Mark (Catherine), David (Cindy) and Jennifer (Adam); 12 grandchildren, Isaac, Zoe (Patrice), Josh (Elyssa), Cassia, Tamara, Erica, Alex, Elijah, Cody, Tabitha, Sasha and Sabrina; one great-grandchild, Sydney; her siblings, Edward, Deb, Ginger and Jeffrey; her sister-in-law, Grace; and her nieces and nephews, Lynn, Carol, Alyssa, Matthew, LoriBeth, Sarah, Elena, Robert, Soren, Derek, Kirk, Hannah, Mariana, Nicolas, Natalia and Lucas.
The family is creating a scholarship fund in conjunction with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. In lieu of flowers, donations (please note: in memory of Bev Paigen) can be sent to P.O. Box 6806, Falls Church, VA 22040 or at www.CHEJ.org.
Condolences to the family may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.