Osman & Gail dancing at the wedding reception for Cheryl & Mikel, at Gail's house in Tucson, May 1990.
Gail Harrison
  • 72 years old
  • Date of birth: Jun 8, 1943
  • Place of birth:
    Colorado, United States
  • Date of passing: Sep 5, 2015
  • Place of passing:
    Thousand Oaks, California, United States
The memory of Gail will be with us forever

This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Gail Harrison, 72, born on June 8, 1943 and passed away on September 5, 2015. We will remember her forever.

Born Gail Kathleen Grigsby to parents Richard and Marjorie Grigsby, Dr. Harrison attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, Cornell University, and the University of Arizona, where she received a PhD in Biological Anthropology in 1976. After a 15-year tenure at UA as a Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine, Dr. Harrison relocated to California to assume a similar position at the UCLA School of Public Health until her retirement in 2013. She was involved in many teaching and research endeavors, especially focusing on the nutrition and health of underserved and impoverished children, mothers, and families.  She repeatedly was called upon to consult with the World Health Organization, US Women Infants and Children feeding program (WIC), and UNICEF. She was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 2003.

Dr. Harrison was predeceased by her brother, Richard S. Grigsby Jr., and is survived by her husband, Osman Galal; children Tim Harrison and Malinda Bess Harrison; stepchildren Mona and Khalid Galal; stepmother Susan Grigsby; step-siblings Cherrill Kawakami, Barbara LeBlanc, & William Davis Jr.; and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, etc., donations in Gail's honor to Heifer International (www.heifer.org) are encouraged.

We invite all of Gail's family members, friends, colleagues, students and mentees, to post their remembrances of her, including pictures when they are available. 

UPDATE 1:  There will be a celebration of Gail's life, and her contributions to and through the University of Arizona, on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at 10am in the Little Chapel of All Nations on the University of Arizona campus.   All are welcome!  RSVP @ chezerey@comcast.net    

UPDATE 2:  On May 23, 2016, Osman Galal joined his beloved Gail.  May he rest in peace.  He will be greatly missed. 

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by salome yesudas on 8th June 2017

"I met  Dr. Gail in 2003 at Bellagio centre through Dr. Harriet .
She is wonderful, soft spoken with highly appreciative spirit.
later few more time I met her., and we are in touch through e mails.
though we lived in completely different parts of the world me from India and Dr. Gail from USA made unique friendship.
miss you madam, But hope to see you in heavenly places ..."

This tribute was added by nasrin omidvar on 15th August 2016

"As an Iranian scholar, I have worked with Gail and Osman since 1995. They worked with the nutrition community in Iran for more than a decade and have contributed a lot. We miss them very much.
This September we are going to have our National Nutrition Congress, where we usually tribute and remind those scholars who passed over the last two years and have contributed to Iranian Nutrition community. Gail and Osman are in the list along with Iranian colleagues to be reminded and re-introduced. This the the least we could do to thank them and formally say good bye."

This tribute was added by Dean Garrett on 14th August 2016

"I am deeply saddened to learn of your passing, Gail and Osman and will miss you both. I was fortunate to have met you and feel privileged to have been mentored by both of you. Osman, I thank you for helping me to find clarity in my career quest and for introducing me to one of your closest friends and colleagues who was instrumental in providing me invaluable career guidance. For me, you were more than mentors--you were friends. May your souls rest in Peace."

This tribute was added by Loulou Kobeissi on 1st June 2016

"I love you Both and very Much Professors Osman and Gail.  May your Wonderful and Gracious Souls Rest in Peace.

Thank you for mentoring me.  You have influenced my life in so many ways.

You were an Inspirational Couple and Precious Global Public Health Leaders.

I will miss you both and very dearly.."

This tribute was added by Ghada Soliman on 25th May 2016

"Rest in Peace Gail Harrison and Osman Gail. It was my great pleasure and honor to meet and know them both. Their impact on my life was palpable as I started my PhD degree at the University of Arizona in 1990. It was a great privilege to have their friendship and support over the past twenty five years. Rest in Peace Gail and Osman."

This tribute was added by Mark Damesyn on 1st December 2015

"Gail (and Osman) gave me my first job out of grad school, Gail was hugely pivotal in my entrance to the UCLA Doctoral program, and I learned tons as I worked for her over a 4-year stretch.  In short, Gail was a huge force in molding my career and my life.  I'll never forget her powerful intelligence balanced with a deep caring for her work and the team she led.  This in addition to the millions she has impacted through her work itself.  She has truly left the world markedly better than she found it."

This tribute was added by Harriet Kuhnlein on 10th October 2015

"Gail was a treasured long-term friend and colleague of mine. We met in 1976, or so, when I visited Tucson en route from Berkeley to my doctoral research with the Hopi.  We stayed in touch over these many years and shared time at nutrition conferences and in context of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS).

Gail encouraged the focus of our budding McGill research centre onto Indigenous Peoples as a unique niche in food and nutrition research. Thank you, Gail!  The Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) has been successful, in part because of its unique perspective on participatory work with Indigenous Peoples in many parts of the world.   Osman and Gail fostered the creation of a Task Force within the IUNS, first with attention exclusively to Indigenous Peoples, and currently spreading to “traditional, indigenous and cultural” food and nutrition.  With 3 meetings at the Bellagio Conference Center in Italy, our Task Force produced 3 books on Indigenous Peoples’ food systems with the FAO that have been widely circulated and influential.  Again, thank you, Gail!

Our IUNS Task Force members and friends have sent many messages by Facebook and on email to remember Gail.  These include: Chief Bill Erasmus (Dene Nation Yellowknife), Salome Yesudas (India), Solot Sirisai (Thailand), Grace Egeland (CINE and Norway), Laurie Chan (Canada), Dina Spigelski (CINE, Canada), Mark Plotkin (ACT, USA), Masami Iwasaki-Goodman (Japan), Nancy Turner (Canada), Louise Hilland (Nuxalk Nation, Canada) and Hilary Creed-Kanashiro (Peru).

Gail introduced her student, Nellie Duran, to Chief Bill Erasmus and me.  This led to a doctoral program for Nellie. We all met just this past May for Nellie’s successful defense at UCLA.

These are just small examples from one person on how Gail has influenced the nutrition community. Her many friends and colleagues nationally and internationally speak eloquently of her legacy to all of us.
We miss you, Gail.  Rest in Peace."

This tribute was added by salome yesudas on 7th October 2015

"I met her in Italy, Canada and in Thailand on few occasions. She is the most soft spoken person and Very Beautiful and highly knowledgeable. I am thankful to Dr. Harriet for introducing me to lovely people through her Global Health Project.
Our prayers for family members   .
Miss you Madam!"

This tribute was added by Linda Houtkooper on 27th September 2015

"Gail was an inspirational teacher, mentor and colleague.  I had the good fortune to complete my PhD in nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona with her guidance, sage advice and support.  She was a wonderful role model as a professor, mother and woman of wisdom.  Gail had a profound impact on my career and was pivotal in my decision to embark on my PhD program.  I also had the opportunity to work with her assisting in helping her conduct research as part of a children’s health status study with the White Mountain Apache nation and via a multi-center study in Egypt.  Her unwavering trust, patience and confidence in me enabled me to learn in ways that were unique and that had great impact on my life.  She truly contributed to making this a better world for many, many people.  I thank her and will be forever grateful for the gift of her presence in my life.  Her special spirit continues to be with us.  
“This world is not conclusion; a sequel stands beyond, Invisible as music, But positive as sound." Emily Dickinson."

This tribute was added by Suzanne Murphy on 26th September 2015

"It is with great sadness that I learned of Gail’s death.  I first met Gail in 1984 when I joined the Nutrition Collaborative Research Support Program (NCRSP) shortly after finishing graduate school; I was in awe of her expertise!  We continued to work together over the many years since, but my admiration for Gail’s work reached a new peak when we worked together on the IOM committee to update the WIC food packages, starting in 2003.  Her contributions to the resulting report have had a huge impact. A very fitting outcome of her ongoing WIC work was the funding of an innovative longitudinal study of WIC participants, which she largely designed.  Although it will have to be completed without her, her stamp will be on the many insights that will be gained when the results are published.  The world of nutrition, and my personal world, will never be the same without Gail as part of it.  I extend my heartfelt sympathies to her family and many friends at this sad time."

This tribute was added by Laura Kettel Khan on 19th September 2015

"It is hard to put into words the impact Gail has had on my life professionally, spiritually, and as a woman of integrity.  Gail became not only my career mentor, but was a maverick for women as a role model in how we need to stand up for early childhood and family.  Gail and Cheryl Ritenbaugh supported so many of us.  The two of them supported young mothers and fathers in balancing our careers and family.  Both of them allowed us to bring playpens into our work space so we could breastfeed and care for our infants.  "The Pink House" was a place of success professionally as we did our work international and nationally for low income, underserved individuals, but it also served as the grounds of what many of us do now and how we set precedent for the balance of work and family life.  This is something I don't think many think about when they are remembering Gail, but for me it changed my life and how I operate in my career and mentoring.  Reflecting on my relationship with Gail, she was probably one of the most important people God has allowed me the honor of knowing, and I humbly say thank you, thank you, thank you for being my friend."

This tribute was added by Ghada Soliman on 17th September 2015

"I first met Gail when I arrived to Tucson with my husband in 1989. I got to know her as a wonderful professor and a passionate mentor during my PhD graduate studies in Nutritional Science at the University of Arizona. I still remember she congratulated me on getting my first award for best abstract during the FASEB 1991. She encouraged me to keep work hard to achieve. Over the years, I enjoyed meeting her in conferences and short visits. Rest in Peace, Gail, you will be in our hearts and will be forever missed."

This tribute was added by Amr Soliman on 16th September 2015

"I have known Gail for about 30 years and worked with her in Egypt, Arizona, and Michigan.  She had an outstanding experience and vision for international nutrition and global health.  She was a great host, wonderful mentor and friend, and had a remarkable ability to have long-lasting friendships.  She will be missed by so many people around the world."

This tribute was added by Tony Vuturo on 14th September 2015

"I knew Gail from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She was a classy women, colleague, confidant, associate  and friend.  I was fortunate to know many people in her life . Gail and I  shared many good times together.

She will be missed and  continues to be in my prayers.

Tony Vuturo"

This tribute was added by Carol Sue Goodby on 13th September 2015

"Rest in piece. I hope the food is good where ever you land."

This tribute was added by Diane Harris on 13th September 2015

"I still remember the first conversation I had with Gail Harrison in 1996, when I first started as a post-doc at UCLA in the Center for Human Nutrition.  We connected on several topics, including the fact we both spent time at Cornell for graduate studies.  From day 1 she was welcoming and nurturing.  She provided me a number of opportunities at UCLA, including teaching several courses in the School of Public Health.  One fun course we co-taught was a practical nutrition course for medical students.  I learned so much from her along the way, most critically how nutrition research can inform nutrition policy in ways that really do impact people to live healthier lives.  She is largely responsible for my subsequent career shift from lab research to public health nutrition.  On a personal level, we lived relatively close to her in the Conejo Valley, and I remember the first time she invited my family over to dinner (including my oldest daughter who was a baby then and now is a senior in high school).  She brought together people literally from all over the world to her home to chat and share stories.  For a new post-doc, this was an incredible experience.  I'll always hold her in my heart as a friend and mentor."

This tribute was added by Douglas Taren on 12th September 2015

"I have had a wonderful life because of the support that Gail gave to me.  She definitely contributed to 3 major parts of my life.  First, as a master degree student from 1987-1990, I took two courses from Gail one was an independent studies course for which I conducted a review of B6 requirements during pregnancy and course on public health nutrition.  Her mentorship helped me gain the love for reading journals and thinking about nutrition from many different perspectives. The second course was on public health nutrition. There were two important events that occurred during this course. First, we took a trip to Phoenix to meet with the Arizona Department of Health Services, Office of Nutrition.  I was introduced to WIC, and several other state nutrition programs.  I learned about the department’s list of nutrition jobs in the state and was alerted to one with the Navajo Nation in Tuba City Arizona that I eventually worked at for 3 years.  The other event during this course was on our drive back to Tucson, we stopped a place that I did not know it existed (60 miles from Tucson). It was the Gila River Pima Indian Cultural Center.  It is there the Gail introduced me to Indian Fry Bread and the Pima Indian culture.   The other powerful activity that she put together during my studies was a seminar series. I don’t remember everyone who spoke at the series, but I do remember going to listen to Derrick Jelliffe and it opened my mind to the possibility of doing nutrition work in low and middle income countries.

Her second contribution to my life is that I asked her to write a recommendation letter for me to Cornell’s doctoral program in international nutrition. I am sure that it must have helped as I was accepted and I know it wasn’t because of my grades in Organic Chemistry.  This is when I knew she must be a great writer.  After, I was accepted, I remember one winter break, I returned to Tucson and she and Cheryl Ritenbaugh offered me a 1-week consulting job to do interviews on the Navajo Reservation. I quickly accepted the offer, did the interviews and then took the funds and flew down to Cabo San Lucas.

Her third contribution to my life is when she and Osman left Arizona that opened a position up in the Department of Family and Community Medicine for which Cheryl provided me the opportunity to work in my hometown.  The only downside of this was I thought that I at first that I also would be working with Gail.  However, this is not the end of this story.  As my mentor, she had also been the mentor of my future wife who she had worked with her in Cairo and who was working for 18 months on one of Gail’s projects in Lesotho when I got to Tucson.  Myra and I did eventually meet and we were very happy when Gail and Osman made it to our wedding.  

I tell you theses stories because to me they exemplify her focus on people.  She always was willing to help make other people’s lives better.  I am sure that am not the only master student that she influenced with her knowledge and the way she applied anthropology to nutrition.  It definitely was an honor for me to have known Gail. I will always have good memories of her as I am sure is true for Tim, Bess and Osman for whom I send my condolences."

This tribute was added by Sarah Kuester on 11th September 2015

"Gail was my graduate supervisor in the 1980's for a masters degree in nutritional sciences.  Her guidance and insight on community nutrition shaped me for a career in public health nutrition.  She was always  welcoming and had time for me and any questions.  Her guidance was both deliberate and subtle, but mostly by example.  I recall that she was always thoughtful and confident in her responses.  It impressed me that she was so comfortable dealing with international and national nutrition issues early in her career.  Gail also was very welcoming to her graduate students.  She invited us to her home and social events.  She also gave me the privilege to sit for her two young children several times and see her as a loving mother.  My condolences go out to Tim, Bess, Osman, and her extended family.  She leaves a unique gap but also has given us much to remember her life."

This tribute was added by barry popkin on 11th September 2015

"I first met Gail in the late 70’s when we held separate grants with USDA and would meet 2-3 times per year at USDA. Thus began a friendship which last until her death.  Osman, Gail and I would have dinner every year once or twice a year for at least 20 years at every meeting-global or international—and spend evenings talking over wine and food.  They met often my part long-term partner and current one.  We knew a great deal about each other’s families without ever meeting them. And we kept up with our families and our lives via these very long wonderful meals spent together.
Then there is the Gail I knew as an international nutrition scholar.  What I relished most about Gail was the way she learned to swim very rapidly and very well in Arabic cultures.   She introduced me to very fine people not only in Egypt but also Iran. And she helped us get Iran involved both in a Bellagio conference but also in an ill-fated 12-country project killed by the Iraqi war.  Gail’s sensitivity to and understanding of Islamic cultures was unique among those I knew in the nutrition world. She worked with me on many other efforts and always helped me with Osman and her entry points to that world.  When I think of her I also think of the amazing way she took on the massive set of children and grandchildren, all the pregnancies and array of other comings and goings of Osman’s family. She just flowed with this large extended family and all their various dramas.  
The other thing I most remember about Gail is the love and care she gave to her students and the way she continued to interact with them and nurture them as they moved across the globe. I worked with several over the years because of Gail.  She always looked for ways to bring them into new research or travel experiences.
Finally I saw Gail as the administrator chair of a large very complex department I had the privilege to evaluate while she was chair.  She had many competing camps of research clusters that all were very focused on their niches but she kept peace and harmony in a way few could. And her patience and efforts certainly kept that department together for many years. She remained chair far beyond the norm due to her sense of responsibility and fear that no one would come in to keep the department flourishing with so many diverse subsets of faculty.  
Barry Popkin"

This tribute was added by Cheryl Ritenbaugh on 11th September 2015

"I first met Gail in 1972, in the Anthropology Department at the University of Arizona.  I taught her anthropology, and she taught me nutrition.  From that time on, we worked together in various capacities and became very close friends.  I found her to be a helpful loyal friend. I worked with her in Egypt throughout the 1980s, and she even hosted my wedding reception in 1990 (you'll see pictures here from that event.)  Our lives diverged after 1992.  But from those 20 years I have many treasured stories, and I look forward to posting some of them here.  I invite you all to do the same -- share with us what you would like to have remembered about her."

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This memorial is administered by:

Bess Harrison
Ellen Graver
Cheryl Ritenbaugh
Tim Harrison


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