The school didn’t reveal the cause of death. In June, Montemagno revealed in his blog that he was suffering from cancer and was treating it “aggressively.”
“This was unexpected. Even though he carried a diagnosis for which he was being treated, this was sudden and unpredicted,” SIU trustee Dr. Marsha Ryan said.
Despite undergoing an “arduous and draining” regimen of chemotherapy, Montemagno continued to perform his duties, Ryan said. “He worked every day that he was not in active treatment.”
Before joining the SIU staff, Montemagno was a celebrated nanotechnology and biomedical engineering researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, where he headed the Ingenuity Lab.
Montemagno became chancellor of SIU-Carbondale in August 2017. Three months later, he announced a plan to eliminate academic departments and department heads amid plummeting enrollment and deteriorating finances. He said his plan aimed to save money and was an opportunity to make the university’s academic offerings more attractive to prospective students.
SIU has seen its enrollment plunge over 20 years, totaling 12,817 students this fall. That is about half of what enrollment was in 1991.
“He created a roadmap to secure the university’s future; earned the respect and commitment of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members; and was an unwavering proponent of the university’s mission,” Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey said. “His loss will be deeply felt at SIU, in Southern Illinois and in the scientific and academic communities.”
Montemagno is survived by his wife, Pamela, two children and five grandchildren.