George Alexeeff, director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in the California Environmental Protection Agency, died June 29 of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.
Mr. Alexeeff received his doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from UC Davis in 1982 and later taught in the Department of Environmental Toxicology as an adjunct professor.
In 1986, he started his career in state service, certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. He worked at OEHHA since its creation in 1991.
Appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 and confirmed by the state Senate in 2013, Mr. Alexeeff oversaw staff in multidisciplinary evaluations of the health effects of pollutants.
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While he was director of OEHHA, Mr. Alexeeff developed the CalEnviroScreen, the nation’s first health screening tool that identified California communities that were most vulnerable to pollution’s effects.
Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, said Mr. Alexeeff was a key player in promoting environmental rights.
“Because of George’s leadership, all Californians today enjoy greater health and environmental protections, and OEHHA is well positioned to meet the challenges ahead,” he said.
An avid runner, Mr. Alexeeff would run with his daughter Stacey every Saturday, starting when she was age 7. She said she would ask her father for advice during their runs and enjoyed being with him.
He ran multiple half-marathons, including one in Walnut Creek, where he lived. In 1992, Stacey and her father ran their first Bay to Breakers, a 7.6- mile race in San Francisco that became their annual run together.
During the half-marathons, Mr. Alexeeff would make friendly conversation with people, encourage other runners and just have fun, she said.
“He wasn’t trying to win or be super fast,” Stacey Alexeeff said. “He always wanted to cheer for everyone else.”
Stacey said her dad was “silly” and “goofy” and had various hats and costumes.
In 2013, Stacey ran a marathon in Santa Barbara. Mr. Alexeeff drove down to support her with a portable music player and sombreros for the family to wear.
“He was an amazing father,” Stacey Alexeeff said. “He always had so much joy and energy, and he just made everything fun.”
Jean Ackerman, his wife of 39 years, said her husband always danced with her. While Mr. Alexeeff was in the hospital, there were so many people there to visit him that they had to move to a bigger room. Instead of walking down the hall, Mr. Alexeeff grabbed her and they waltzed, she said.
“He was my dance partner (and) he was a sweetheart,” she said.
Mr. Alexeeff is survived by his wife, Jean; his daughters, Stacey and Kathy; and his brothers, Valentin and Andrei.
A memorial service, scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday will be held by St. Giles Episcopal Church in the chapel of St. Mary’s College, 1928 St. Mary’s Road, in Moraga. The event is open to the public.
A UC Davis memorial has been established for the George Alexeeff Memorial Environmental Toxicology Award to support students pursuing environmental toxicology degrees. To donate, go to https://give.ucdavis.edu/Go/Alexeeff.