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D: 2020-06-12
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D: 2020-06-10
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Kenneth Paigen

Kenneth Paigen

Monday, November 14th, 1927 - Saturday, February 15th, 2020
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Kenneth Paigen, PhD died peacefully the morning of February 15, 2020 in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was surrounded by his wife of fifty years, Dr. Beverly Paigen, his five children (Susan, Gina, Mark, David, and Jennifer), and his grandchildren. He was 92 years old. Ken was born to Alexander and Ida Paigen in New York City in 1927. He received his BA in Biology with honors from Johns Hopkins University in 1946, and his PhD in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1950.
Ken was a brilliant scientist, a treasured colleague, and a trusted mentor. Throughout his scientific career, he received numerous awards and honors and published 148 scientific papers. His research initially focused on the biochemistry and molecular biology of gene regulation, while his later work focused on recombination hotspots in humans and mice and the broader regulatory mechanisms controlling the location and intensity of epigenomic features.
He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received a Fulbright Senior Specialists Award, and an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College. After receiving his PhD, Ken held several postdoctoral positions – including at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, and UC Berkeley. In 1955, Ken began a position as a cancer researcher at Roswell Park Memorial Institute (now Roswell Park Cancer Institute) in Buffalo, NY. During his 27 years there, he attained the rank of professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1982, Ken returned to UC Berkeley as professor and chair of the Department of Genetics. Then, Ken moved to Bar Harbor, where he served as Director of Jackson Laboratory (the role now designated president and CEO), a position he held until 2002. Ken had a lasting impact on JAX during his leadership of the institution, including his crucial leadership following the devastating fire of 1989. During his tenure, he doubled JAX’s staff and operating budget. After stepping down as director, Ken remained an executive research fellow and professor, collaborating and publishing with Dr. Petko Petkov and other members of his lab on the mechanisms of genetic recombination in mice.
Outside of the laboratory, Ken was an avid outdoorsman. He played squash in his younger years and skied until he was 86. His lifelong passion, however, was sailing. He and Bev have sailed the entire coast of Maine, with Penobscot Bay and the Downeast coast as particular favorites, as well as Baja Mexico and the British Virgin Islands. Nicknamed “Skipper,” Ken shared his love for sailing with anyone and everyone, teaching his children, grandchildren, friends, and countless others the fine nuances of harnessing the power of the wind. Others on Mount Desert Island will know him as the long-time cup holder of the Long Pond Regatta.
Above all, Ken was devoted to those he loved, and, with Bev, he created a space of love and encouragement that extended far beyond their immediate family and will continue to endure long after his death. He is survived by his wife Bev; his sister Grace Felsher; his five children, Susan, Gina, Mark (Catherine Saltalamacchia), David (Cindy Paigen), and Jennifer Wales (Adam Wales); his two nieces, Lynn and Carol; his 12 grandchildren, Isaac, Zoe (Patrice Dini), Josh (Elyssa Edgerly), Cassia, Tamara, Erica, Alex, Eli, Cody, Tabitha, Sasha, and Sabrina; and his great-grandchild Sydney.
A public tribute to Ken’s life will take place at The Jackson Laboratory in the coming weeks. Details will be published shortly. The family is creating a scholarship fund in conjunction with The Jackson Laboratory. In lieu of flowers, donations (please note: in memory of Ken Paigen) can be made to The Jackson Laboratory, PO Box 254, Bar Harbor, ME 04609. Condolences to the family may be expressed at
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Joel Graber

Posted at 01:46pm
I am very sorry to hear of Ken's passing. He was a marvelous human at so many levels. I hold a special fondness for Ken as the director who hired me and brought me to MDI and JAX. The simplest, yet most pertinent, thing I can say about him is that some of my best memories of working at JAX are going down to lunch and being invited to share a table with Ken. The conversation was always going to be good. He was always very much present with you there, interested and insightful. He will truly be missed by all who knew him. My sincere condolences to all.

Shellie Batuski

Posted at 09:51am
Dear Bev and family,
We are shocked and saddened by this terrible news. Ken was a great man.
-Shellie and David Batuski (Beth El)

Barbara Acosta

Posted at 09:21pm
I am so sad to hear the news about Ken. I have many warm memories of summers babysitting at your place on Long Pond so many years ago. Ken had a wonderful sense of humor and I could see he loved you and the kids wholeheartedly. And he was great fun! You were lucky to have him in your lives, and so was I, even for such a brief time. I am glad that I knew him. Please extend my condolences to the whole family and my love especially to David and Jennifer. Would love to see you sometime.

Barbara Dole Acosta

david paigen Posted at 09:37pm

Barbara, email me first initial last name at gmail. I'd love to hear from you! -David

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