Stanley Omaye, Ph.D., a longtime faculty member and prolific researcher for the Department of Nutrition at the University of Nevada, Reno, died on Aug. 25 at age 78 from COVID-19 complications. He leaves a 32-year legacy of education and research at the University that was an inspiration in the many lives he touched while working for the University.
“Stan was respected and admired by his colleagues, as well as his students,” said Bill Payne, dean of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources. “His passion for science and research inspired others, and he truly loved mentoring others. Stan left his mark in this world, not only with his outstanding research, but with his warmth and generosity. He will be greatly missed.”
“Stan left his mark in this world, not only with his outstanding research, but with his warmth and generosity. He will be greatly missed.”
On Sept. 7, Stan was recognized as an emeritus faculty member by Jeff Thompson, provost and executive vice president of the University.
Raised in northern California, Stan began his academic career with earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Sacramento State University in 1968, followed by a master’s degree in pharmacology and physiology from University of the Pacific in Stockton in 1972.
Stan earned his doctorate in biochemistry and nutrition from the University of California, Davis, in 1975, and soon after he served a postdoctoral fellowship in pulmonary biochemistry and toxicology with the California Primate Research Center.
He followed this with several leadership roles at the Letterman Army Institute of Research in the Presidio at San Francisco, working there from 1976 to 1980 and again from 1987 to 1991. In the interim, Stan was a project leader and researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Berkeley.
Remarkable teaching and research work
Stan joined the University of Nevada, Reno as a professor in 1991. He contributed to the University in many ways, including leadership roles. Stan was the Nutrition Department chair from 1991 to 1996, and later served as interim chair for the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition & Veterinary Science from 2015 to 2018.
He also served as the University's Extension food safety specialist from 2005 to 2011. Later he was elected to serve as director of the Environmental Sciences & Health Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, a role he fulfilled from 2015 until his death.
During his career at the University, Stan earned a reputation as a thorough and fair instructor. He taught many different undergraduate and graduate courses, including Principles of Food Science, Food and Culture, Nutrition and the Life Cycle, Micronutrients, and Food Toxicology. He also mentored many students during his career, with some following in his footsteps and pursuing research careers in government, industry and higher education.
Stan excelled at research, with 40 different investigations listed in his CV, starting in 1986 as an undergraduate student. He was also prolific and authored or co-authored more than 300 published works, including ones for scientific journals, books and book chapters, and technical reports. His research reflected his diverse interests related to food, nutrition and agriculture.
Examples of recent projects include evaluating antioxidants in types of food, soil enhancement for better vegetable growth, safe and effective food handling and education for caregivers, and urban hydroponic fruit and vegetable production.
Stan was on the editorial board for many different publications during his career, including Toxicology, the Journal of Food Protection, and the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. At the time of his death, he was the was editor-in-chief of the journal Antioxidants, which recently published a tribute to Stan. He also served until his death as a member of the Scientific Advisors for the American Council on Science and Health.
Readers of University news will recognize recent recognition of Stan’s work, including articles on how probiotics affect a person’s mood and a then-new elective on the complexity of chemicals in food.
Friends and colleagues remember
Jamie Benedict began her career at the University as the state Extension nutrition specialist in 1990, starting just six months before Stan. That began a close working friendship between him and Benedict, who is currently an associate professor and chair of the Nutrition Department.
“He really was a dedicated scholar, and he invested his time, energy and attention in his interests,” Benedict said. “This included the areas of food science and toxicology, nutrition, and more recently, in agriculture.”
Benedict also said that Stan was passionate about outreach, fully embraced the land-grant mission and appreciated what that meant to Nevada’s citizens.
She said that Stan didn’t often talk about himself or share his opinions, but with time and opportunity, you could peel back the layers and benefit from everything he had learned over the years.
“He was very dedicated to his family... He loved spending time with them.”
“When I first began as department chair, I appreciated his patience and guidance,” Benedict said. “I also learned how he was very dedicated to his family and his children, and more recently, to his grandchildren. He loved spending time with them.”
Benedict said Stan also “loved to grow things. He spoke often of his fruit trees and his vegetable garden,” she said. “He loved the labor of growing and loved to talk about food at every stage. He was a very kind, generous and thoughtful man.”
Another person who Stan affected during his life was Wei Yang, the current senior associate dean of the School of Public Health. Yang said he was the first nutrition Ph.D. student who was advised by Stan, starting in 1994.
“He’s had a huge influence on my life, and a big impact on my ways of working with students and the way I manage my work,” Yang said.
Yang characterized Stan as a person who was trustful, reliable and kind. He said he was very supportive of the planning and proposals of his students, not interfering with their processes until they asked for help.
“He was so passionate about research, and the purity of it,” Yang said. “He was a great role model for students with the way he showed his love of science.”
“He was so passionate about research, and the purity of it. He was a great role model for students with the way he showed his love of science.”
Marsha Read also saw Stan’s best qualities in her work with him. She is currently an emeritus professor with the Office of the Provost and was one of the people who interviewed him as a candidate for Nutrition Department chair.
“He recognized each individual’s abilities and strengths and stepped back and supported them as chair and colleague,” Read said. “Not only did he support his colleagues, but he could be relied on to step in when the department needed assistance in taking on extra responsibilities.”
Read echoed what other people have said about Stan, that he truly cared about all of his students.
“His students came first, and like his colleagues, he was supportive, particularly with his graduate students. He was patient and encouraging, and helped them find the best in themselves.”
A memorial for Stan was held on Sept. 9 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Reno.