DOE Human Subjects Resources

Dr. Arlene J. Lennox 1942 ~ 2008

Physicist led cancer program

By Patricia Trebe

Special to the Chicago Tribune

May 28, 2008

 
Dr. Arlene J. Lennox, a medical physicist, worked tirelessly to help treat cancer patients at what is now the Northern Illinois University Institute for Neutron Therapy at Fermilab.

Since 1983, Dr. Lennox, considered one of the world’s leading experts in neutron therapy, who recently retired as technical director , helped hundreds of patients who had cancer that did not respond to most treatments. Neutrons can be more effective at killing tumors than conventional radiation therapy.

"For these last years, Arlene has been the head of [the program] and has kept it alive and kept it motivated," said Roger Dixon, head of the accelerator division at Fermilab in Batavia.

"Although she did not start the facility, she became one of the world's experts on neutron therapy and certainly important to keeping the program going here at the lab."

Dr. Lennox, 65, of Elburn, died of metastatic breast cancer Saturday, May 24, in her home.

It was her responsibility to calibrate machines and ensure the treatment plan prescribed by patients' doctors.

Also, she was chief administrator of the program and staff, said Thomas Kroc, who replaced Dr. Lennox. "She was a tremendous asset in neutron therapy," Kroc said.

Born in Cleveland, Dr. Lennox decided when she was 14 that she would become a nun. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph Third Order of St. Francis and took her final vows at age 16.

She started teaching high school when she was 17 and during summers would attend Notre Dame College of Ohio.

In the mid-1970s, she worked on a master's and then her doctorate degrees in physics at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. When the order instructed her to leave school and return to other duties, she asked to be released from her vows in 1976, said her husband, David Eartly.

She met her husband, a physicist at Fermilab, when working on a research project at Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont. The couple married in 1977.

Dr. Lennox received a post-doctoral position at Fermilab where she worked on experiments involving the Tevatron, the most powerful accelerator in the world.

Dr. Lennox is also survived by her mother, Mary Rose; two brothers, Rand and George; and two sisters, Rita Langer and Ruthanne.