Obituary: Anthony M. Gawienowski, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry

November 4, 2013

Anthony M. Gawienowski, 89, of Amherst, professor emeritus of biochemistry ad molecular biology, died Nov. 1 at the Center for Extended Care in Amherst.

The son of Polish immigrants, he was born in Newark, N.J. and grew up in nearby Irvington, where he graduated from high school.

He attended Seton Hall University and transferred to Villanova College to enlist in a Navy V-12 training program and play football, and was commissioned in the U.S. Navy. He served as an assistant navigation officer on the U.S.S. General O.H. Ernst and was awarded American, Asiatic Pacific and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medals and the Victory Ribbon, and retired a lieutenant (junior grade). After World War II, he graduated from Villanova in 1948, and then worked in the pharmaceutical industry until he enrolled in the University of Missouri, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural chemistry (endocrinology).

Following postdoctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin, he joined the chemistry faculty of Kansas State University, where he taught from 1957-63. While at KSU, he was the first biochemist to investigate the long-term biological effects of the synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol, widely known as DES, which was later linked to vaginal and breast cancer.  Concerned by widespread use of DES in the poultry and beef industries, Gawienowski served as a consultant to the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the organizations that lobbied federal officials to ban the use of DES.

He moved to Amherst in 1963 to join the chemistry department, where he assisted in the creation of the department of biochemistry, now the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. His research included the action of marijuana on retinas and hormone synthesis, olfaction and animal behavior—using odors to build a better rat trap.

He retired in 1992.

His professional associations included the American Association for University Professors, Sigma Xi, The Endocrine Society, the Society for the Study of Reproduction, the American Chemical Society, Gamma Alpha, and Phi Lambda Upsilon.

He leaves five children, the Rev. John Gawienowski of Amherst; Tony Gawienowski of St. Charles, Mo.; Margaret Briskin and husband Donald Briskin of Champaign, Ill.; Mary Frances Gawienowski of Barrington, Ill., and Peter Gawienowski and his wife the Rev. Michelle of Shoreview, Min., two grandchildren and a brother.

Calling hours will be Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at the Douglass Funeral Service.

Funeral services will be Thursday, Nov. 7 at 9 a.m. from the Douglass Funeral Service with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in the Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel at the Newman Catholic Center, with burial following in North Amherst Cemetery.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Newman Catholic Center, 472 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst 01002.