All of us at the American Institute for Cancer Research are grieving the loss of our dear friend and colleague Dr. John Milner, who passed away suddenly on New Year’s Eve.
Dr. Milner was a tireless, eloquent and impassioned champion of research into nutrition’s role in cancer risk. We will remember him as a true leader whose combination of dedication, intellect and personal charm brought experts from many different fields together. His warm and garrulous presence, and his sage advice, will be greatly missed.
Dr. Milner was a longtime friend to AICR, serving for many years as a member of our grant review panel and our research conference planning committee.
During his time as chief of the National Cancer Institute’s Nutrition Science Research Group, where he helped shape the nation’s scientific inquiry into diet and cancer prevention, he served as the NCI observer for the Expert Panel that authored the AICR/WCRF report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective.
His involvement in the field of nutrition dates back to his student days at Oklahoma State University, when a work-study job in a research laboratory triggered a lifelong interest in fighting disease. After earning his PhD from Cornell University, Milner was recruited for the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he met Mary Frances Picciano, PhD, who would later become his wife.
John and Mary Frances later joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Nutrition for 11 years. Dr. Picciano worked as a senior scientist with the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health. She passed away in 2010.
John was of course an eminent scientist, but anyone who saw him speak — as he did many times at AICR’s Research Conference over the years — was struck by his skillful ease as a communicator. He knew how important it was to convey that the science on diet and cancer has a very real human impact: he’d present data on the anti-cancer activity of garlic compounds, for example, and leave his audience with practical tips for preparing garlic at home. He delighted in forging a connection with his audience, just as he loved forging new connections among his colleagues that would drive new research and new discoveries.
We were fortunate to know John, a true scholar and a gentleman. Our thoughts are with his family.