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Academic couple with Glenville ties dies from CO poisoning in Florida

Academic couple with Glenville ties dies from CO poisoning in Florida

Daughter says keyless ignition system may have led to car being left running inadvertently
Academic couple with Glenville ties dies from CO poisoning in Florida
Photographer: Shutterstock

GLENVILLE - A retired Boston-area academic couple with ties to the Capital Region has died of an apparently accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in Florida.

James D. Livingston, 88, was a research physicist at General Electric's Niskayuna research and development center from 1956 to 1989, when he followed his wife to Massachusetts after she became chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He then became a senior lecturer at MIT.

Sherry H. Penney, 81, was at one time the acting president of SUNY-Plattsburgh -- the first woman to hold that position. She was also an interim president of the University of Massachusetts system, and was previously vice-chancellor for academic programs, policy and planning for the State University of New York system.

The couple died last week at their Sarasota, Florida, home, after apparently being overcome by carbon monoxide from the exhaust of a running vehicle in their garage. Their family believes the keyless ignition system in the Toyota Avalon led them to inadvertently leave the vehicle running. They were found on Friday, three days after they were last seen.

"This is a 'thing' now with keyless-ignition cars...so quiet, and people don't have a key to reach for to shut the car off. I've tried starting my beau's car countless times to realize it was already on," a daughter, Barbara D. Livingston of Malta, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

According to a joint obituary published in the Boston Globe, Livingston and Penney -- both of whom held academic doctorates -- met as neighbors in East Glenville during previous marriages, both of which ended in divorce. They married in 1985.

Penney had a doctorate in American history from what is now the University at Albany, and became a historian and researcher on women's leadership. She taught at the Albany university and at Union College in Schenectady before becoming an administrator, according to her UMass profile.

In Boston, Penney had a role in the development of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. "Like Teddy, Sherry sought to inspire more young people to learn about the workings of our government so they could play a meaningful role in our country's future," Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the late Massachusett's senator's widow, said in a statement.

Livingston grew up in Brooklyn, and went to work as a GE research scientist after obtaining a degree from Cornell University and doctorate in applied physics from Harvard. At GE for 33 years, his obituary said his research focuses included magnetic, superconducting and mechanical properties of materials. He acted in community theater productions and in GE's Christmas musicals.

Both academics published extensively, and in 2004 co-authored "A Very Dangerous Woman," a book about Martha Coffin Wright, a 19th-century abolitionist and women's rights advocate who was Livington's great-great-great grandmother.

The couple's children include Barbara D. Livingston, chief photographer for the Daily Racing Form, from Livingston's first marriage; and a son, James, from Penney's first marriage, who lives in Albany.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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