Rex Montgomery spent more than five decades as a University of Iowa scientist, producing groundbreaking research and educational programs that have helped transform the field of biochemistry and the university itself.
The professor emeritus in the UI Department of Biochemistry got his start as an academic leader—and as a mentor for students and colleagues alike—in England, where Montgomery received a 1943 bachelor's of science degree and a 1946 doctorate degree from the University of Birmingham.
Following nine years of postdoctoral study in England and the United States, he accepted a position as assistant professor of biochemistry at the UI in 1955. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a professor in 1963 and—following a sabbatical leave to the Australian National University in Canberra—associate dean for academic affairs in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine in 1974.
Montgomery served in this capacity until 1995, during which time he also held the positions of associate dean of research in the Carver College of Medicine and interim vice president of research for the university.
His own research interests focused on the role that the carbohydrate groups in glycoproteins and glycolipids play in biological functions such as cellular-transport processes, communication, and immune response against disease, and his work garnered more than $30 million in funding for the university. After publishing his first paper in Nature in 1946, Montgomery went on to author approximately 130 original research publications, 28 reviews, and three books. This prestigious body of work established him as one of the 20th century's most important carbohydrate biochemists, and his scholarly contributions had a major global impact in the field for more than three decades.
Along with conducting breakthrough research, Montgomery also spent thousands of hours teaching biochemistry to graduate, medical, dental, pharmacy, and physician assistant students. In fact, he even established a new physician assistant program at the UI in 1973, serving as its director until 1976. In the years since, graduates of this program have gone on to help myriad patients throughout the state, the nation, and the world. To recognize this achievement, the UI named the Rex Montgomery Physician Assistant Student Society and scholarship fund in his honor.
With all of these academic contributions to Montgomery's name, it's fitting that his friends, colleagues, and former students describe him as a source of personal and professional inspiration, calling him a "towering figure," a "quintessential university professor... who leads by remarkable example," and a "perfect mentor."
Though he officially retired from the UI in 2006, Montgomery generously invests in the university through charitable giving. He still comes to work, where he continues to make an active impact through writing papers and reviews.
Thanks to his lifelong passion for learning and teaching, and his quest for new discoveries, Rex Montgomery leaves a lasting legacy at the University of Iowa—and in the world of biochemistry.
Montgomery is a member of the UI Alumni Association's Old Capitol Club and the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.