Helene Swenerton, Ph.D.

Helene Swenerton

Position Title
(In Memoriam) Cooperative Extension Specialist Emerita


Helene Swenerton was born on Jan. 13, 1925, in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1942, she graduated from Fremont High School in Los Angeles, California. In 1942, while attending college at UC Davis, she met her future husband, Arthur Swenerton, and they were married in Paso Robles, California, on Oct. 30, 1943. After raising her three sons, she went back to college at UC Davis, where she earned a B.S. in Home Economics in 1963, an M.S. in Nutrition in 1965, and a Ph.D. in Nutrition in 1970. During her studies, she worked as a Laboratory Assistant and as a Teaching and Research Assistant at the UC Davis Department of Nutrition.

In 1970, Dr. Swenerton joined the UC Davis Faculty as a Research Nutritionist, in association with renowned Professor Dr. Lucille Hurley. Together, they published what is now considered a classic series of research papers on the effects of zinc deficiency in the diet on mammalian fetal development. In 1972, Dr. Swenerton was appointed a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Nutrition, where she served the public with distinction for over 17 years. During that time, she developed and implemented a statewide UC Cooperative Extension program designed to bring nutrition-related research information to local nutrition and health professionals and educators. In addition, she provided leadership in combatting nutrition misinformation and health quackery. Further, she acted for many years as a Nutrition Consultant for Safeway Stores, Inc. Prior to her retirement in 1991, Dr. Swenerton was honored for her work by American Men and Women in Science, Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in the West.