Gerald Keeler, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences in the School of Public Health and the College of Engineering respectively, passed away on April 12 following a long battle with cancer. He was 51 years old.
Keeler — who was known to be one of the leading world experts on mercury in the environment and its impact on human health — was a University alum who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University in 1987 before returning to become a lecturer in 1993.
Keeler also served as director of the University of Michigan Air Quality Laboratory since 1990 — an organization partnered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Quality and Environment Canada — to investigate and monitor mercury deposition.
In 1990 he began directing the Air Quality Lab at the University, where he investigated the atmospheric deposition of polychlorinated bi-phenyls, mercury, and cadmium in Detroit and the air-water exchange of toxic chemicals over Lake Michigan and the Chesapeake Bay.
Keeler and his colleagues at the Lab influenced state and national policies through their findings, which they presented to the EPA, the Department of Environmental Policy of the State of Florida and the Health Effects Institute.
Frank Marsik, an associate research scientist at the Air Quality Lab who first met Keeler as an undergraduate at the University in the early 1980s, said that despite the rigors of his research initiatives, Keeler always made it a priority to focus on his family.
“Jerry was incredibly successful in his career . . . and made some very significant achievements in the area of research that he worked in,” Marsik said. “Family was always first with him. And that’s just a really good moral.”
Keeler is survived by his wife of 27 years, Joanne, and his children Ryan, Kevin, and Meghan.