A chief proponent of inclusion and diversity in the STEM fields, Anthony Quinn, died last Wednesday in ProMedica Ebeid Hospice Residence in Sylvania aged 59 years old.
He died after a four-year fight with pancreatic cancer.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, distinguished university professor of Astronomy and Helen Luedtke Brooks, and endowed professor of Astronomy. “Dr. Quinn was an amazing person. He really cared about our students. He was instrumental in helping so many students, mentoring them.”
Quinn joined UT in 2001 and was an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, as well as Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in UT’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. For over four years, he suffered from pancreatic cancer.
He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from MidAmerica Nazarene University and a master’s degree in biology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He then received his doctorate from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and continued his post-doctoral studies at UCLA.
Quinn was especially passionate about the inclusion and retention of minority students in STEM fields. He co-chaired the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Summer Bridge and Living Learning Community Program and led the Brothers on the Rise mentoring program.
“He came to me with so many good ideas about things that we could do and ways to help those students succeed and really mentor them and help them along the way, including the summer bridge program,” Bjorkman said.
Quinn also co-chaired the Strategic Planning Committee that created The University of Toledo’s Path to Excellence plan.
With much of his laboratory work focusing on the interplay of the immune system and diabetes, he was an active member of the American Association of Immunologists, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International, Immunology of Diabetes Society, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and Clinical Immunology Society.
“He was actually pretty well-known for that work and received an University of Toledo Interdisciplinary Research Initiation Award some years ago from the research office here at UT,” Bjorkman said.
Quinn was influential in creating the STEM Fellowship Fund.
“The idea was to help support students, especially those who wanted to go into graduate or professional programs in STEM,” Bjorkman said. The fund has been renamed the Dr. Tony Quinn We Are STEMM Fellowship Fund in his honor.
In addition to advocating for minority students in STEM fields, he left a lasting impact on both students and his colleagues through his mentorship.
“He was very effective as a mentor and I think that’s really what his lasting legacy here is, as somebody who was very generous with his mentorship, and helping people get through things from a professional, academic, and personal level” said Bruce Bamber, associate professor and chair and postdoctoral research fellow.
David Jones, a fourth-year public health major with a pre-medicine concentration, worked on the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Program with Quinn, co-director of the program.
“Dr. Quinn is the reason why I am the person I am today, both academically and personally,” Jones said. “There was a time in my life where I didn't have the confidence that I was smart enough to become a physician. Dr. Quinn took the time out of his busy day and talked with me about this subject for hours. But that was just the type of person he was. He would do anything for you if he could.”
Quinn suffered from pancreatic cancer through Jones’ tenure at UT.
“I admired him very much for not shrinking away from life when he got diagnosed, he really embraced it,” Bamber said. “I think it’s a real tribute to who he was. He just never gave up.”
Surviving are his wife, Belinda, his son and UT graduate, Colin, his mother, Minnie Sampler, and his brothers, Keith, Darren and Christopher Sampler.
“You hate to really close the chapter on Tony. He was a wonderful member of our department and we will all miss him very much,” Bamber said.