Cocaine overdose suspected cause of professor’s death

by Sarah McKenzie

Officials from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said they will not release confirmation on the cause of University Professor Keith Kajander’s death for at least four weeks.
Kajander, an associate professor of oral biology in the School of Dentistry, died Wednesday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He was 45.
A family member said the professor collapsed on April 23 in his Minneapolis home on Cedar Lake Parkway. Sources say he had been golfing that morning.
According to Minneapolis police reports, authorities responded to a call from Kajander’s residence at 4:40 p.m. April 23. The report indicates a 45-year-old man was suffering from seizures related to a cocaine overdose.
Kajander was authorized to study controlled substances in his research on pain, said Michael Till, dean of the School of Dentistry. Those substances included cocaine and morphine, other Academic Health Center officials confirmed.
Officials from Abbott Northwestern Hospital would not comment on the cause of Kajander’s death.
Faculty members had no indication that Kajander was ill prior to the news of his death, Till said.
University Police and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety are taking inventory of the contents in Kajander’s lab, located in Moos Tower, said University Police Sgt. Jo Anne Benson.
Such an inventory is standard procedure any time a professor or faculty member passes away or retires, she added.
Kajander’s sudden death has stunned his friends and colleagues. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University in 1976. He also earned a dentistry degree and a Ph.D. in anatomy.
“We are all very saddened,” said Till. “(Kajander) was a good and solid member of our faculty.”
Till said Kajander was an accomplished researcher and his death has come as a great shock to his co-workers.
As a professor, Kajander earned tenure in 1997 and served as a mentor to students in oral biology, neuroscience and pharmacology graduate programs.
Kajander is survived by his wife Peggy Rose, parents Rudy and Elsie and brother Jerry.
A memorial service will be held for the professor at Temple Israel in south Minneapolis at 10:30 a.m. today. A dental school memorial fund has been established by the family.

— Staff Reporter Scott M. Larson contributed to this report.