UC Berkeley News


Ruth Huenemann

07 September 2005

Ruth Huenemann (Photo courtesy of the Huenemann family)
Ruth Lois Huenemann, pioneer in the field of public-health nutrition, and professor emerita and founder of the public-health nutrition program, died Friday, Aug. 19, at the Lake Park Retirement Residence in Oakland. She was 95.

One of the first researchers to recognize the importance of systematically studying the longitudinal development of obesity in children, Huenemann conducted seminal studies on childhood obesity.

Huenemann's research and teaching combined rigorous science with a pragmatic approach to improving nutrition in varied cultural settings. She traveled widely for U.S. and international health and nutrition organizations.

She was noted for several longitudinal studies of nutrition and physical activity among adolescents and children. Her work revealed a link between low income and an increased risk for obesity and found that teenagers were getting much less exercise than previously thought.

"The issue of childhood obesity seems so current now, but imagine what it was like in the 1960s when she sought funding for such studies. She had foresight into a growing problem," says Patricia Crawford, co-director of the campus's Center for Weight and Health and a former student of Huenemann.

Born in 1910 to a farming family in Iowa, Heunemann received her B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, her master's degree in nutrition from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in public-health nutrition at Harvard.

In 1953, Huenemann joined Berkeley's School of Public Health, where she founded its public-health nutrition program, establishing its curriculum, research program, staff, and funding. During her 24 years on campus, she chaired the College of Natural Resources' nutritional sciences department and the School of Public Health's social and administrative health sciences department.

Huenemann is survived by her brother, William Huenemann, of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and dozens of nieces and nephews. A private memorial service was held Aug. 25. Donations in her memory may be made to the Ruth L. Huenemann Scholarship Fund, Office of External Relations, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, 140 Earl Warren Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360; the Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515; or the University of Tennessee/Ruth Huenemann Fellowship Endowment, Gift Records Office, Knoxville, TN 37996.

- Sarah Yang

Obituaries of Professors Emeritus Donald Shively, an expert on Japanese life and cultures; Bruce Bolt, seismologist; and Luis Monguió, who specialized in Latin American poetry, may be found online at www.berkeley.edu/news/archives/.