Greg Kannerstein, a former Athletic Director, Head Baseball Coach, Assistant Dean of Students, Acting Dean of Admissions and Dean of the College, at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, has died at age 67 of the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Kannerstein was a beloved figure on the campuses of Haverford and its sister school, Bryn Mawr. He worked at the college for 41 years, in varying capacities, but always with a commitment to mentoring students and encouraging faculty members alike. He was himself a student at Haverford, graduating with the class of 1963.
He retired as Dean of the College in July 2009, and then began working as a Special Advisor to Institutional Advancement and Lecturer in General Programs when he was forced by ill health to take a leave of absence. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer which targets the lining of the thoracic cavity and lungs, only weeks before his death in November 2009. Mesothelioma is a rare and devastating cancer which is almost always liked to previous occupational or secondary exposure to asbestos fibers. These fibers, which are released during the course of work on or with asbestos-containing materials, are sharp and needle-like. They can embed themselves into the mesothelium and eventually cause the surrounding cells to become malignant. Most often, the cancer spreads without becoming symptomatic, so that by the time it is eventually diagnosed, it has invaded much of the body and the lymphatic system.
Patients with mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of only 18 months after diagnosis, but some – like Kannerstein – live only for a very short time after learning that they have the cancer. It is not known how Kannerstein may have contracted mesothelioma, or if he had any previous exposure to asbestos. Some 2,000 to 3,000 patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. There is no cure for mesothelioma, although it can be treated with varying success, especially if it is discovered early. Research into both diagnostic techniques and treatment options for sufferers of the asbestos cancer are ongoing.