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Thomas R. Tephly (1936-2021)


Posted By: Ken Wright (email)
Date: 7/29/2021 at 14:56:50

Thomas "Tom" R. Tephly died peacefully on Saturday, July 24, 2021, at the age of 85, in Iowa City, Iowa, at the Bird House/Hospice Home of Johnson County. He and his family received the most compassionate and understanding care during this time.

Tom followed a lifelong pursuit of discovery and knowledge both for himself and to share with others. In particular, he had a passion for science, music, travel, nature, history and reading (especially poetry). Tom was born Feb. 1, 1936, in Norwich, Conn., to Anna (Pieniadz) and Samuel Tephly (a Polish immigrant). Music enriched Tom's life early when he broke his leg and took up accordion lessons. Tom was so gifted that he had his own radio show at the age of 10, where he would take requests to play all the popular polkas. He later learned to play the piano, clarinet, and saxophone and would entertain at all sorts of private and public events during his high school and college days.

Tom always excelled at his studies and graduated valedictorian from the Norwich Free Academy in 1953. He continued to the University of Connecticut at the urging of the family priest, earning his B.S. in Pharmacy in 1957. During college, he worked at several pharmacies in Norwich, Conn. Tom achieved his Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1962 at the University of Wisconsin. He was later honored as a research scholar of the American Cancer Society after he followed his mentor to the University of Minnesota to complete his M.D. in 1965, where he finish his postdoctoral training. Tom then moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was appointed as assistant and later associate professor. The University of Iowa recruited Tom in 1971 to lead a new toxicology center, where he was a full professor until his retirement in 2003.

While in Madison, Wis., Tom met Joan Clifcorn on a blind date. They married in Madison on Dec. 17, 1960. Tom was devoted to Joan for over 60 years, and they raised three daughters in whom he instilled a love for music and music performance. He also took them on his various business travels and sabbatical where they explored -- and got lost in -- the world together. When they were young, Tom told his daughters, and later his granddaughters, adventurous stories about Little Brown Bruno (that naughty little bear) and about haunted lighthouses. As they grew older, the dinner table discussions evolved into teachings on history and culture all under an air of humor and over a gourmet meal that Tom himself crafted from instinct. Tom was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, brother, mentor, teacher and friend and he will be missed immensely.

Tom grew up a Yankee fan alongside his father and followed their successes even after moving to the Midwest. Because Tom served at many Big Ten institutions, he also became an avid college sports fan, especially of the Iowa Hawkeyes football team. He held season tickets since 1971 and witnessed the joys of Kinnick Stadium magic many times.

A love for nature began in Tom's early days fishing with his father and, later with Joan's father, learning to hunt pheasants alongside (or sometimes chasing after) a "trusted" dog. The Midwest, with its bounty and colorful seasons, captivated Tom and he soon considered himself a proud Iowan. He also loved summertime in Northern Wisconsin pursuing musky, temperate winters in Florida, and many trips to Hawaii listening to the waves crashing against the coast. Tom enjoyed birdwatching; he was always careful to keep his multiple bird feeders well-stocked and, even in his later years, found simple joy in watching hummingbirds and orioles at his windows.

Tom earned the prestigious John J. Abel Award in 1971, awarded for the best original, outstanding research in the field of pharmacology. At age 35, he was the youngest to have ever won the award. Throughout the rest of his lengthy career, Tom was also awarded a Fogarty Senior International Fellowship, FASEB Visiting Professor Award and Kenneth P. Dubois Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science and Practice of Toxicology and he is included in Britannica's Who's Who in America. Tom wrote over 200 publications for scholarly journals and hundreds of reviews, book chapters and abstracts; was invited to give over 50 key presentations at conferences across the world; was awarded millions of dollars in research grants; chaired and sat on numerous committees for The University of Iowa and national organizations, including National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environment Health Sciences, Environmental Protection Agency, American Cancer Society, National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Navy - Nuclear Submarine Air Quality, International Life Sciences Institute, as well as several editorial and award selection advisory boards.

Tom trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and provided sabbatical experiences for several foreign visiting professors. They each enriched Tom's life immeasurably along with the scientific colleagues in his own laboratory and across the world. Upon his retirement, Tom was given the status of Professor Emeritus with The University of Iowa. He was a member of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Society of Toxicology, American Association for Advancement of Science, American Society of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology and International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics.

Tom is survived by his wife, Joan; his three daughters, Susan (Tom Hilgartner) of Charleston, W.V., Linda (Peter Cotant) of Coralville, Iowa, and Annette (Matt Rybarczyk) of Bettendorf, Iowa; four granddaughters, Rachel, Leila, Michelle and Daniela; and his sister, Patricia; as well as his lapdog, Prince.

He is preceded in death by his parents and four beloved dogs.

A visitation for Tom will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, at Lensing's Oak Hill, 210 Holiday Rd., Coralville, Iowa. Due to the current variants of the COVID-19 virus, the family kindly requests that guests please consider wearing masks. Funeral services and burial will be private. Instead of flowers and plants, the family suggests memorials to The Bird House/Hospice Home of Johnson County, American Heart Association, Pheasants Forever or American Brittany Rescue.


Linn Obituaries maintained by Cindy Booth Maher.
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