Ancel Keys, the oldest living alumnus of the century-old Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has been selected to receive the Professional Achievement Award from the UCSD Alumni Association. The association's interim director, Armin Afsahi, presented Keys with the award at his home in Minneapolis, Minn., last month. Keys' daughter, Carrie D'Andrea, will attend the association's Awards for Excellence Gala on Oct. 23 on behalf of her father.
The 100-year-old Keys received a Ph.D. in oceanography from Scripps in 1930. Among his many notable career achievements are the development of K-rations during World War II and his landmark studies of the relationship between diet and blood cholesterol levels.
"Ancel Keys is one of the most extraordinary and influential alumni to have received his education at the University of California," said Scripps Director Charles F. Kennel. "How fitting and poignant for an alumnus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which celebrated its centennial last year, to receive this award during his own centennial year."
Keys was born on January 26, 1904, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He received a B.A. in economics and political science in 1925 and an M.S. in biology in 1929, both from the University of California, Berkeley. After his graduation from Scripps in 1930, and the completion of postdoctoral fellowships in Copenhagen and at Cambridge University, he joined the physiology faculty at Harvard University. He earned a second Ph.D., in physiology, from Cambridge University in 1938. In 1939 he joined the staff of the Mayo Clinic and became assistant professor at the University of Minnesota; he became full professor in 1954 and emeritus professor in 1972. The University of Minnesota gave him an honorary doctorate in 2001.
Although he studied fish biology and physiology at Scripps, he spent his career studying the physiology of humans. During World War II he was commissioned by the U.S. government to study human performance while in a state of nutritional deficiency and as a result developed the emergency K-rations-high-calorie, lightweight meals to be used by troops when no other food was available. During the 1950s and '60s, he and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota defined the relationship between the fat composition of diet and serum cholesterol levels. The Keys Equation continues to be the best way to predict the effects of diet on blood cholesterol levels and the resulting risk of coronary heart disease-an accomplishment that earned him the nickname "Mr. Cholesterol" after he was featured on a 1961 cover of Time magazine. For the next two decades he conducted pioneering studies on the lifestyles and diets of entire populations and determined lifestyle-related risk factors for a number of diseases.
"UCSD and Scripps have a long tradition of producing outstanding scholars with an international reach," said Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of UCSD. "Ancel Keys is a most deserved alumnus for this very special award. He is a terrific example for students and young alumni of the tremendous impact their education and experience at UCSD can have on their lives."
Also being honored at the UCSD Alumni Awards Gala is Scripps alumna Marcia McNutt, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Griswold Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University. The 1978 Ph.D. graduate of Scripps will receive the Outstanding Alumna Award in recognition of her accomplishments in fundamental research, teaching, service and scientific leadership. Her research on the subject of the equilibrium of the earth's crust on continents and oceans led to fundamental contributions in understanding the evolution of islands.
The UCSD Alumni Association, formed in 1964 and now representing more than 96,000 alumni, aims to foster a lifelong, mutually beneficial relationship among alumni, students and UCSD.