The daughter of John McGovern, a civil engineer, and Gloria "Saunders" McGovern, a homemaker, Kathy Ann McGovern was born in Washington and raised in Wheaton.
After graduating in 1975 from the old Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1979 from the University of Maryland.
She earned a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Florida, and after performing postdoctoral work in cell research at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, joined the faculty of the University of Arizona in 1990.
During her 13-year tenure at the university, Dr. McGovern played a prominent role researching drug interactions in cells, as well as the design, building and use of bioreactor systems for cancer cells, family members said.
"She also developed a targeted drug delivery system for cancer patients for which she holds a patent," said a brother, Steven J. McGovern of Rock Hall.
From 2003 to 2005, Dr. McGovern taught third-graders at the Children's Success Academy in Tucson, Ariz., where she brought her "passion for science and education to the classroom," her brother said. "She assisted in developing a technology program for the school and wrote a grant to purchase new student and teacher computers."
Dr. McGovern also spent years volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate mentoring children with attachment disorder. She also rescued dogs and trained them in agility performance and was an international agility judge, her brother said.
She also enjoyed reading, dance and music.
Dr. McGovern suffered her first stroke in 2005, and for the last year, she had been a resident of the Bay Ridge Nursing Home in Annapolis, family members said.
A celebration of Dr. McGovern's life will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Inn at Huntingfield Creek, 4928 Eastern Neck Road, Rock Hall.
Dr. McGovern is also survived by two other brothers, John H. McGovern III of Olney and Mark R. McGovern of Sykesville; and many nieces and nephews.