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Columbia Missourian

Dr. Venkataseshu Kuppuswamy Ganjam lived life with passion for teaching

By Kristen Herhold
November 28, 2012 | 8:35 p.m. CST

*An earlier version of this life story gave an incorrect address for contributions. Memorial donations toward biomedical research may be made to the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, W-210* Veterinary Medicine Building, Columbia, MO 65211.

COLUMBIA — Dr. Venkataseshu Kuppuswamy Ganjam lived his life with passion, especially for scientific research and teaching.

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“His hobbies were his work,” his wife Irene Ganjam said. “He loved teaching and was teaching until he died. He spent all the time he had on it.”

Dr. Ganjam died Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. He was 72.

Dr. Ganjam was born on July 6, 1940 in Tirupati, India.

He received his undergraduate degree in India and decided to earn his graduate degree in the United States. In 1962 he enrolled at Washington State University and earned a master’s degree in animal science.

“Washington was the first time he saw snow,” Irene Ganjam said. “He didn’t have a coat when he came to America. He was freezing.”

Dr. Ganjam then pursued his doctoral degree at Oklahoma State University before moving to Montreal to work at McGill University in 1970. There he met Irene, who was born in Germany.

“Both my parents left their countries to start a new life,” Dr. Ganjam’s son Kris Ganjam said. “A strong part of their relationship was how to bring up their kids to be Americans, and that’s what they did.”

The newly married couple moved to Pennsylvania so Dr. Ganjam could work at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school, where he earned tenure as a professor. Dr. Ganjam also worked at Auburn University, where he established an endocrine service.

“He had darker skin, so when he came to the United States in the 1960s, he faced a lot of discrimination in Oklahoma and Alabama, and that’s always been on his shoulder,” Kris Ganjam said. “He also grew up as a vegetarian and weighed 120 pounds and was 6-foot-2. But being different helped make him who he was.”

In 1981, Dr. Ganjam accepted a job at MU where he remained a professor of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences until his death.

Dr. Ganjam's work focused on many fundamental biomedical research questions relating to heart disease, diabetes and reproduction in both animals and humans. He made contributions to the fields of endocrinology and physiology.

Dr. Ganjam and his wife raised their two children in Columbia.

“He taught me the value of hard work and discipline,” Dr. Ganjam’s daughter Ricarda Ganjam said.

Throughout his life, Dr. Ganjam also enjoyed performing magic, playing chess, traveling and — most importantly — following cricket.

“Listening to and watching cricket really brought him back to his youth,” Irene Ganjam said.

Kris Ganjam said his father was very determined throughout his life.

“When he wanted something to happen, it did,” Kris Ganjam said. “My favorite example was when he was younger, my classmates were trying to get a frog to jump, and he came up and did everything to get the frog to jump, even jumping on the ground himself. You know what, that frog jumped.”

Dr. Ganjam never let go of his passion for teaching.

“His final two weeks in the hospital, he was still teaching,” Kris Ganjam said. “He was speaking different languages and teaching physiology to all the students who walked through the hospital. He truly loved being a mentor.”

His family said he would be missed by many people he impacted throughout his life.

“He was a very kind and gentle man who you could really talk to and get advice from,” Irene Ganjam said. “He still kept friends with people throughout his life until the last day.”

Dr. Ganjam is survived by his wife, Irene Ganjam; his son, Kris Ganjam of Seattle, Wash.; his daughter, Ricarda Ganjam of Washington, D.C.; his brother, Audiseshu Ganjam of Chennai, India; his sisters, Manonmani Krishnamurthy of Hyderabad, India, and Vasumathi Viswanathan of Chennai, India; and three grandchildren, Sidney, Sophia and Skylar Luebbert, all of Washington, D.C.

His parents, Dr. Ganjam Kuppuswamy and Padmavathi, and a sister, Rajeswari Ramamurthy, died earlier.

Visitation will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W., with services to follow.

Memorial contributions toward biomedical research can be made to the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, W-210 Veterinary Medicine Building, Columbia, MO 65211.