Obituary: Dr. Thomas Ray Jerrells

On Tuesday, the 22nd of May 2018, one of the esteemed members of the Society for Leukocyte Biology, Thomas (Tom) Ray Jerrells, passed away.

Tom was born in Wickenburg, Arizona. From the age of 14 years until the Vietnam War arrived in his life, he was a bull, saddle bronc, and bareback rider in the competitive sport rodeo, at both collegiate and professional levels. Tom was a rich storyteller, and he shared many a rodeo story with colleagues, friends, and family during his lifetime.

Tom served in the U.S. Army (1966-70) and was a Veteran of the Vietnam War. He subsequently launched his scientific career and established himself as a distinctive leader in the field of immune and infectious diseases. In mid-1980s, he expanded his research program to study the effects of alcohol consumption on the host immune defense mechanisms.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Bacteriology and Public Health from Washington State University in 1976, Tom conducted his research at multiple institutions, including through a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Ronald B. Herberman at the National Cancer Institute, Litton Bionetics, Inc. (Kensington, Maryland), and as Immunologist in the Department of Rickettsial Diseases, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Washington, DC). In 1987, he joined the Departments of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston as an Associate Professor, and in 1991, he accepted a position as Professor in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Louisiana State University Medical Center-Shreveport. In 1995, he subsequently took a position as Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy at Washington State University, where he was also Director of the Pharmacology/Toxicology Graduate Program (1996-99). In 1999, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to join the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center as Professor. Tom retired in 2011 after a long and prolific 36-year research career.

In the later part of his career, Tom’s research mostly revolved around alcohol and immunology. Because of his long-standing interest in this area, he formed the Alcohol and Immunology Research Interest Group (AIRIG) with other fellow researchers in the field. AIRIG has continued to meet every year since its inception. Over this period, his research was continuously funded through a number of research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Tom has published more than 130 full-length peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters. He was actively involved in student training, and many of his trainees are now leading independent researchers.

Tom was Editor-in-Chief of Alcohol: An International Biomedical Journal (1999-2004). In addition, Tom supported research through numerous consulting positions, editorial boards, editorships, journal peer review, and committees. He was a member of many scientific organizations and also served on a number of NIH study section panels.

Besides science, Dr. Jerrells was a modern-day Renaissance man who enjoyed all that life had to offer. Among those things were hunting, fishing, cooking, running, music, backpacking, cold beer, flying single engine planes and gliders, skiing (water/snow), discussing the vagaries of life, the New York Yankees, the Green Bay Packers, poetry, his pets, and above all, his family. He loved philosophy, ethics, challenging dogma, and the Socratic and Scientific methods.

He is survived by his wife Jan Jerrells, and daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Nick, and 2 granddaughters, Cassie and Abby Strachota.

Friends can visit The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to learn about the disease that took him from us and make a donation in his name (

Mashkoor A. Choudhry, Ph.D.
Professor of Surgery, Microbiology & Immunology
Director, Alcohol Research Program
Burn & Shock Trauma Research Institute
Stritch School of Medicine
Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division, Maywood, IL 60153