Memorial Resolution: David C. Regnery


(1918-2001)Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences David C. Regnery died May 9, 2001, at age 82. He is mourned by his colleagues in the Department and the University.

Dave Regnery first came to Stanford as an undergraduate in 1936, receiving his Bachelor's degree in 1941. He was an avid athlete and actor, performing in Shakespeare's Richard II and other plays. In later years, when he returned as a faculty member in 1947, he recalled that this early experience made it not so difficult to face a lecture class of 500 in Memorial Auditorium.

Regnery's career bridged the revolution in biology that was initiated at Stanford in 1941 by the experiments of George Beadle and Edward Tatum, who obtained biochemically defined nutritional mutants in the fungus Neurospora. As an undergraduate biology major, Dave witnessed the beginning of this pioneering work, which led to the unification of genetics and biochemistry and to a Nobel Prize for the two Stanford biologists. After service in the Navy, he returned to do graduate research in Beadle's department at Caltech. His thesis concerned Neurospora mutants impaired in leucine biosynthesis.

On returning to Stanford, with its booming enrollment of returning GI's, he assumed primary responsibility for teaching Biology 1, 2, 3, a lecture and laboratory course for non-majors, where for over 20 years he introduced students to exciting new developments in genetics and evolutionary biology. He also taught upper-division courses in eukaryotic genetics and the ecology of disease, continuing until he became emeritus in 1988. He is remembered for his genuine commitment to excellence in teaching and for his influence on literally thousands of students.

Dave was also active in research throughout his career. He was innovative in the things he chose to investigate and the ways he went about it. An independent thinker, he worked by choice on problems that did not require research grants or large group efforts. With the botanist Gilbert Smith, he devised techniques for mating the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas. Their methodology and the strains they chose for use opened the way for Chlamydomonas to become an important model organism, especially for investigating organelle genetics and photosynthesis.

Rather than continue with fungi and algae, which were fashionable, he shifted to the genetics of transplantation immunology in fish, population genetics of animal communities, and the genetics of disease resistance. In the 1960s, he and two Ph.D. students studied populations of feral rabbits on the tiny, rugged Farralon Islands off the Golden Gate, using transport provided by the Coast Guard in serving the lighthouse there. Finally, until his final illness, he was engaged in studying the natural history of viral diseases in native mammals such as brush rabbits, voles and rodents. His research often involved taking blood samples from wild populations of small animals at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and near his home in Portola Valley.

Dave enjoyed a productive sabbatical year in 1962-63, working on mammalian viruses at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University. Later, Russell Regnery followed in his father's footsteps, going to Australia to obtain a Ph.D. that prepared him for a professional career as Research Microbiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Regnery was married to Dorothy Farris, a prominent regional historian who died in 1990. They are survived by their daughter, Roberta, of Jacksonport, Wisconsin; sons Richard of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin., and Russell of Tucker, Georgia; and two grandchildren. Regnery also is survived by his sister, Ruth Paine, of Pomona, California., and his brother, Rolland, of Los Altos.

Dave will be remembered as a devoted teacher and scholar, an original and independent thinker, and a modest and considerate colleague.

We propose this memorial resolution to the Stanford University Academic Senate and ask that upon passage it be transmitted to his children, grandchildren, brother, and sister, whose loss we share.


David Perkins

Donald Kennedy

Charles Yanofsky

Patricia Jones