A West Virginia University professor emeritus who tirelessly supported the University, its programs and students has passed away at the age of 84.
Dr. Joginder Nath, professor emeritus and longtime chair of the genetics and developmental biology program in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, died Sunday (Dec. 11) night after a long illness.
“Dr. Nath was my friend, and even now continues to motivate me, and so many others,” said Daniel J. Robison, dean of the WVU Davis College. “He represented all that is good and right with higher education – how it can advance science and the arts for human good, how it can elevate people, how it makes our world a better place.
“He was a true Mountaineer, an adopted son of this state, and nation, and a continuing inspiration. Our most heartfelt condolences to his wife, Charlotte, and sons Pravin and Brian and their families. We will always hold them dear here at WVU.”
A native of India, Nath earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Panjab University. He moved to the U.S. in his 20s and earned a doctorate in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the late 1960s, he and two other professors were hired to start a genetics and developmental biology program at WVU. He retired from the university in 2009 after 43 years of service – 35 of which were spent at the helm of the interdisciplinary graduate program.
During his career, Nath won many awards for his research and teaching, including the Hollaender Award from the Environmental Mutagen Society in 1997 for research in genetics and genetic toxicology, as well as for his lifelong dedication to the inspiration, education and guidance of students from around the world. In 2002, his alma mater, Panjab University, presented him with the P.N. Mehra Memorial Award for an outstanding career in human genetics, toxicology and tumor cytogenetics.
As a teacher, researcher and philanthropist, Nath was devoted to helping students succeed and giving back to the university near and dear to his heart. His efforts were recognized this past June when he was inducted into the Order of Vandalia, WVU’s highest honor for service to the university.
An avid supporter of the Honors College, Nath and his wife, Charlotte, a retired professor of family medicine, established the Nath Lecture Series, an annual lecture featuring distinguished scientists and scholars from around the world, and an awards program dedicated to recognizing the outstanding achievements of seniors in the college.
“We are greatly saddened to hear about the passing of Jo Nath,” said Dr. Kenneth Blemings, dean of the Honors College. “He was a great supporter of the Honors College and we particularly appreciated his desire to recognize excellence in both our students and faculty. We have lost one of our most generous champions, but his legacy will live on through the Nath Lecture.”
Nath also had a profound love for the arts.
In 2008, he made a significant contribution to the Art Museum of WVU creating a sculpture garden and courtyard area. The Joginder Nath Sculpture Garden and Courtyard features an outdoor exhibit area and was dedicated this September. In 2013, Nath also provided funding for the construction of the museum’s new facility.
“Jo was a loyal and giving friend to the College and truly understood the role of the arts in living a full and balanced life,” said Paul Kreider, dean of the WVU College of Creative Arts. “He gave his time and energy to the Art Museum of WVU as a volunteer and docent.
He also had a vision for the sculpture garden that bears his name. His impact will be felt by faculty, staff, students and the entire Morgantown Community forever. His leadership and his friendship are things I will always cherish.”
As someone who once said, “Students have been my life,” Nath also wanted to ensure WVU students were taken care of.
In 2014, he established the Nath Student Food Pantry Endowment that provides funds to purchase food for distribution to students from The Rack, WVU’s student food pantry. Nath’s donation was the first-ever endowment supporting the initiative which is funded solely through private donations and grants.
Nath also established the Nath Graduate Student Travel Award, which assists graduate students in the Davis College by providing travel fund assistance to attend conferences, present papers, conduct research or travel to enhance their education. He served as a member of the Davis College’s and the WVU Eye Institute’s Comprehensive Campaign Committees, assisting with helping to raise funds for the A State of Minds: Comprehensive Campaign.
“Dr. Nath was a valuable member of our Campaign Committee and endowed the Joginder Nath Ophthalmology Lectureship at the WVU Eye Institute,” said Lynne Schwabe, associate director of development. “This endowment allows us to bring world-renowned experts to enhance the research and education experience of our faculty, residents, and fellows. This gift honors his generosity and demonstrates his intense commitment to improving our understanding and treatment of blinding eye disease. He was a great friend of the Eye Institute. This is a huge loss for us, for the University, and for the community. Our prayers are with his family.”
The family is currently making arrangements for a memorial.
CONTACT: Lindsay Willey; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design