He is preceded in death by his wife, Ilze Klavins Sell; parents, Oliver Martin Sell and Mary Myra Stewart; and brother, Oliver Martin Sell, Jr.
Growing up on Perrysville Avenue, Stew attended Perry High School (class of 1953) in Pittsburgh, PA where he was a swimmer and life guard in the summers. Stew was introduced to sports through his uncle Jack Sell, a long time sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covering the Steelers and Pirates for 40 years and childhood friend of Art Rooney. A lifelong Steelers and Pirates Fan, Stew always rooted for his home team. In the 5th grade his dad was stationed at Norfolk Naval Station and moved the family to Virginia for a year. Stew attended Jeb Stuart Elementary School where the local kids couldn’t understand his Pittsburgh accent so they called him a “Yankee!” His response was “No, No, I’m a Pirate!” Uncle Jack would be proud!
While in Virginia, Stew visited Williamsburg and was introduced to The College of William and Mary, where he would later attend and graduate in 1956 with a degree in Chemistry. Stew was a member of PiKA fraternity and went on to become a Hall of Fame Swimmer for W&M, chairman of the Honor Council, and leader of the Jazz band, a role he would assume for several other Jazz and Swing bands during his life, including “The Bio-Rhythms” in San Diego, “The Jazz Medics” in Houston, and the “Swing Docs” which he founded in Albany. The Swing Docs are still going strong (www.swingdocs.com).
After graduation, Stew went to medical school at The University of Pittsburgh. He married fellow W&M alumna Patricia Damon King, and completed his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He held fellowships at the National Institutes of Health and in Birmingham, England before returning to join the faculty at Pitt Medical School. He was also a Commissioned Officer in the Public Health Service while in the military.
In 1970, the Sell family moved to San Diego where Dr. Sell became a member of the faculty in the department of Pathology, taught medical school and ran a cancer research lab at UCSD. While in La Jolla he coached several of his daughters’ softball teams. He became an outstanding professor as voted on by the students. Among his findings from his time at UCSD are: first identification of immunoglobulin on the surface of B cells (Current contents citation classic, 1984); classification of immunopathological reactions (1971); development of a radioimmunoassay for alphafetoprotein (1972); identification of liver stem cells during chemical hepatocarcinogenesis and in response to injury (1972); role of endocytosis in activation of B cells (1974); recognition that the chancre of syphilis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction (1979).
In 1981, Dr. Sell joined the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and became Chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Around this time he divorced. He married Ilze Klavins in 1991 and eventually moved to New York.
Stewart was a Professor at the University of Albany’s School of Public Health and an Adjunct Professor at Albany College of Pharmacy. Dr. Sell received the Rudolph L.K. Virchow Award for his concept of cancer stem cells. He was named Legacy Laureate at the University of Pittsburgh for his work on alpha-fetoprotein as a marker for liver cancer. He also received the Abbott award from the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine for recognizing the role of stem cells in carcinogenesis. While in New York, he found time to coach his son’s basketball teams over the years.
He served as the Director of Experimental Pathology at the Albany Medical Center/Wadsworth Center in the NY State Capitol until his retirement. Dr. Sell was Editor-in-Chief of the periodical “Stem Cell Reviews” and author of “Stem Cells Handbook.” He published over 400 scientific research papers, numerous textbooks, which were used to teach immunology and immunopathology to thousands of medical students worldwide (his books were published in several languages). He founded “Capital Region Cancer Research” (CRCR) in 2006, to promote cancer research education in the surrounding Albany organizations, and the ones involved are: Wadsworth Center, SUNY, GE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Albany College of Pharmacy, Albany Medical Center and more. This group still meets quarterly to share the latest information and “bypass red tape.” His scientific research and teaching has had a significant impact on scientists and physicians around the world.
After almost 60 years of continuous NIH funding, Dr. Sell retired in December of 2019 and moved to Williamsburg, VA. An avid tennis player and golfer, Stew was a member of the Troy Country Club in NY, the McCormick-Nagelson Tennis Center at W&M, and the Golden Horseshoe Club. He joined the Ford’s Colony Dance Band in Williamsburg and was a regular at Spot 82 tailgates in the Gold Lot at W&M home games.
Even in retirement, he volunteered his time and talent to teach courses online covering Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Covid-19 at W&M’s Osher Institute. In 2023 he was honored with William & Mary’s highest alumni honor, the Alumni Medallion. He continued consulting with colleagues on cutting edge research until his last days and explaining to everyone he could how viruses work.
Stew is survived by daughters, Sherri Phillips (Bud), Stacy Foulks (Bob), Stephanie Kinzel (Mark); sons, Sean Sell and Philip Sell; grandchildren, Preston Klinke, Samantha Phillips, Alexandra Phillips, Jason Phillips, Devin Kinzel, Elena Foulks, Grayson Kinzel, and Landon Kinzel; nieces, Susan Garrett (Steve), Sheila Sell, and Mary Sell; great-niece, Olivia Garrett; and cousins, Jack Sell, Jr and Mary Mullins Woodeshick.
A Celebration of Life will be at 10:00am on Friday, July 21, 2023 at The College of William & Mary in Virginia. Stew will be interred at The College of William and Mary’s Memorial Garden for all time coming. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the William and Mary Swim Team Excellence Fund in Stew’s memory. For more info contact Jarrad Turner at W&M Athletics (757) 221-2059 or [email protected]
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.NelsenWilliamsburg.com for the Sell family.