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News & Press: Press Release

AWIS Mourns Pasing of AWIS WV Chapter Leader Dr. Judith Westerik

Thursday, September 18, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Julie Utano
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AWIS mourns the passing of Dr. Judith Anne O'Conner Westerik, 69, of Lewisburg, WV.  Dr. Westerik died at home on January 30, 2014 due to complications from ovarian cancer.  She was a long-time member of the Association of Women in Science and served as treasurer of its West Virginia Chapter

Judy was born in New Orleans, LA, grew up in Metairie, Jefferson Parish, LA, and attended Saint Catherine Elementary School in Metairie. In 1958 Judy was admitted to Mount Carmel Academy, and graduated as a National Merit Finalist in 1962. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with an American Chemical Society accredited Bachelor of Science degree in 1966 from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette, LA). Judy completed a Master of Science degree in Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1969, and began studies for a Doctoral degree in Biochemistry at St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO that fall. In Fall 1970 Judy was admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School to continue her Biochemistry Doctoral studies. National Science Foundation grants supported her research and living expenses during her Doctoral studies.  She was awarded the PhD in Biochemistry by UNC-CH in spring 1974.

Dr. Judith O'Connor Westerik continued her biochemistry studies and research at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children's Research Institute in Toronto, ON, Canada, where she was supported by Canada Council grant funds from fall 1974 to summer 1977. In August 1977 she began her teaching career as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) in Lewisburg, WV. During her thirty-six years-long affiliation with WVSOM, she was promoted successively to Associate Professor and full Professor of Biochemistry, and she was elected to serve as Chair of WVSOM's Functional Biology Division, a position whose responsibilities she discharged for twenty years, in addition to continuing to teach biochemistry to WVSOM's first and second year students. In the 1980s, Judy developed  a series of science enrichment programs aimed at K-12 students, with financial support from the Dwight Eisenhower Math and Science Education Act. Greenbrier County students were the first to benefit from these programs. Later, as many as a thousand students a year from schools all over West Virginia came to enjoy and benefit from the programs. The Science Enrichment programs led to Judy's geing nominated for West Virginia Professor of the year in 1991 and 1992. Judy was invited to join the West Virginia Steering Committee for the Comprehensive and Thematic Science development program, and served for several years.

Judy was a long-time member of the Association of Women in Science and served as treasurer of its West Virginia Chapter. She developed and taught undergraduate Biology 1 and Biology 2 courses at New River Community and Technical College. These courses were subsequently redeveloped as Medical Biology 1 and Medical Biology 2 for on-line delivery through the University of New England. Dr. Judith O'Connor Westerik retired as Professor of Biochemistry Emerita from WVSOM on June 30, 2013.

Dr. Judith O'Connor Westerik traveled extensively for both professional, personal, and family reasons. As a member of accrediting teams of the American Osteopathic Association she visited Osteopathic Schools in Maine, California, Tennessee, Arizona, and New York, among others. As a member of an association of Biochemistry Department Chairs, she traveled to conferences held both in the USA and abroad.  Family travels took her to Texas and Louisiana in the USA, and to Quebec and Ontario, Canada, as well as to the Netherlands and France. Judy and Jan both enjoyed visiting and learning about other land and cultures, and traveled widely in consequence.

Judy participated in several community activities such as assistant coach of the youth league soccer team, the Gremlins, with Doug Fisk. She served as transportation coordinator for Troop 70 BSA for two years, and drove groups of Scouts to their various activities both before and after the transportation coordinator stint. For a time in the 1980s and 1990s she participated actively in the programs and services of St. Louis Roman Catholic Chapel. Later Judy and Jan attended services at St. James Episcopal Church. During the last several years of her life Judy was an enthusiastic member of PEO Chapter  , and participated in its meetings and service activities.

Jan, Connor, and Robin wish to express their thanks to all the members of the Lewisburg and surrounding community who have provided invaluable moral support during Judy's two year long struggle with cancer. Included in this group are the members of PEO Chapter V, Judy's colleagues at WVSOM both current and retired, the staff at the Wild Bean Coffee Shop (both present and past), Jan's fellow Rotarians and their spouses, and many others besides. Thanks are also owed to Dr. Venkateswar Veerapalli and his staff, ER doctors and nursing staff at GVMC, the Hospice nurses and staff locally, and Dr. Linda Duska and her team at UVA Hospitals and the Emily Couric Cancer Center in Charlottesville, VA.

Judy decided she wanted her remains to be cremated and have her ashes returned to her family for later dispersal. The Wallace and Wallace Funeral Home in Lewisburg is in charge of the cremation. A commemorative service focused on Judy's life and many accomplishments will be held at 1:00 pm on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Judith Anne O'Connor Westerik Memorial (scholarship) Fund at the Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation, 109 South Jefferson Street, P.O. Box 1682, Lewisburg, WV 24901.


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