Commencement Speaker 2014


Ann A. Kiessling, Ph.D., ’71

Considered a leader in both reproductive biology and stem cell research, Ann Kiessling earned her doctorate from Oregon State University in biochemistry and biophysics in 1971. Now, she is founder, director and researcher at the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation in Bedford, Mass.

 Kiessling’s interest in reproductive biology led to the creation of the first laboratory for in vitro human fertilization in Oregon in the early 1980s. Soon after, Kiessling was recruited by Harvard Medical School, where she conducted research on the fields of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, while also working in the Department of Surgery until 2011. Kiessling’s book, Human Embryonic Stem Cells: An Introduction to the Science and Therapeutic Potential, was published in 2003 and is the first textbook on the subject. It was re-released in 2006.

The Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation was founded in 1996 to conduct biomedical research that could not be done in other research institutions in Massachusetts.  In 2000, the foundation expanded to include stem cell research. It is Massachusetts’ only independent, non-federally funded, nonprofit research institution. The Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation also includes the Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR), which uses Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) to help couples with incurable sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C conceive without threat of the disease being transmitted to their offspring. This has led to the healthy births of 121 children free of those diseases to date.

Kiessling was raised in Baker City, Ore., and graduated from Klamath Falls High School in 1960. She earned her first bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Virginia, followed by a second bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Central Washington University. She came back to Oregon to earn her doctorate from Oregon State University, and she has done postdoctoral work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center and the University of California, San Diego.