Dr. John B. Longenecker Graduate Research Endowment in the Department of Nutritional Sciences

Nov 15, 2011 | Excellence Funds & Program Support

The Dr. John B. Longenecker Graduate Research Endowment in the Department of Nutritional Sciences was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on November 15, 2011, to benefit The University of Texas College of Natural Sciences.

Dr. John “Jack” Longenecker’s many stellar contributions to The University of Texas at Austin laid the foundation for the establishment of the Department of Nutritional Sciences in 2008. Under his leadership the graduate program in nutritional sciences was also established. In addition to his accomplishments in university administration, Dr. Longenecker was a nationally respected researcher in nutritional sciences.

John Bender Longenecker was born in Salunga, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 1930, to Earl Bender Longenecker and Florence Way Longenecker. In 1952, he graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a B.A. in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. That same year, Professor Longenecker came to UT as a research associate and completed his master’s thesis, “Some Non-enzymatic Reactions of Pydrioxal with Amino Acids,” under the guidance of Dr. Esmond E. Snell, in 1954. With Dr. Snell as his advisor, Longenecker completed his doctorate in chemistry in 1956 with a dissertation entitled, “Some Non-enzymatic Reactions of Amino Acids Catalyzed by Pyridoxal and Metal Ions.”

Professor Longenecker briefly left the University to work as a senior research nutritional biochemist at DuPont and as director and supervisor of nutritional research at Mead Johnson Research Laboratories. During his time at Mead Johnson, Dr. Longenecker developed total complete liquid diets for humans, the precursors to nutritional supplements like Sustacal and Ensure, both of which are still widely used in hospitals.

Dr. Longenecker returned to UT in 1964 as professor of nutrition and head of the Division of Nutrition and Foods. Under his guidance, the division grew from a faculty of four with fifty undergraduate students and five graduate students to a faculty of fifteen, supporting the education and research of 175 undergraduate and 39 graduate students. This expansion was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Nutritional Sciences two decades later.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities as division head, Professor Longenecker served as the director of research in protein and amino acid nutrition in the College of Natural Sciences from 1971 to 1989. In 1988, he was chosen to lead the Department of Human Ecology (at that time, the Department of Home Economics) as chairman. In 1989  he was named the director of the Institute of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jack was elected professor emeritus in 1993, a distinction he held at both UT and at the UNC, Chapel Hill.

Professor Longenecker was an inspired teacher and was known nationally and internationally for his research in amino acids. Professor Longenecker’s research focus was primarily devoted to biochemistry with special emphasis on protein quality and amino acid requirements.

Professor Longenecker’s research interests were varied but far-reaching: from analysis of the protein content of military rations just prior to the Vietnam War; to the development of an animal model to speed associated research on the metabolic disorder PKU, a preventable cause of mental retardation; to identification of nutritional factors in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

His research was supported by multiple, simultaneous grants over the course of his career, most notably from the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation. In 1999, he was elected a fellow of the American Society for Nutrition in recognition of his outstanding research career and his contributions to the field of nutritional sciences.

Professor Longenecker passed away on November 16, 2009.

This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Jeanne Freeland-Graves (chair), RoseAnn Loop, and Catherine Surra.

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