Four elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Carl Frieden, Jeffrey I. Gordon, John F. McDonnell and Carl Phillips can now stand proudly beside Ben Franklin, George Washington, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. Those four from Washington University in St. Louis have joined those four from history as being elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Frieden, Ph.D., is the the Wittcoff Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics; Gordon, Ph.D., is the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor; McDonnell is chairman of the board of trustees; and Phillips is professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

“The Washington University community is rich in talented and accomplished individuals who have contributed enormously to science, the humanities, their profession and to the University,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “It is wonderful to see that great recognition has come to four of our colleagues as newly elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”

The current membership of over 4,500 includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as this year’s class of 178 new Fellows and 24 new Foreign Honorary Members.

Frieden, who heads the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, focuses on a major problem in biochemistry — how proteins fold into their correct shapes. He has developed a variety of techniques to examine the structures of intermediates that arise during folding and is exploring a number of different protein systems. They include intestinal fatty acid binding protein, which is involved in fatty acid metabolism, and the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, a target for a number of anticancer and antibacterial drugs.

Frieden’s group has also made important discoveries about the mechanism by which bacterial chaperones help certain proteins refold. He also investigates the relationships between protein structure and function and the catalytic mechanisms of certain enzymes.

Frieden came to the School of Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow in 1955 and has been on the faculty since 1957. He was promoted to professor of biological chemistry in 1967 and became the Wittcoff Professor in 2000. He was interim head of the Department of Biochemistry from 1986-89 and director of the M.D./Ph.D. program from 1986-1991.

In 1988, Frieden was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and selected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gordon, who leads the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, was the first to raise normal and genetically engineered mice and zebrafish, under germ-free conditions to characterize the genomic foundations of symbiotic relationships between these animals and microorganisms living in their intestines. By systematically colonizing these “living test tubes” with either a single type or a defined collection of gut microbes at various points in development, his team has begun to unravel the contributions of human gut microbes to postnatal development and adult physiology.

Gordon’s group sequenced and annotated Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, providing the first view of the genome of a major member of our intestinal bacterial community. They are currently sequencing the genomes of other members of Bacteroides, which collectively comprise up to a quarter of the total bacterial population of the adult human intestine.

Gordon joined the University faculty in 1981 after completing clinical training in internal medicine and gastroenterology and serving as a research associate in the Laboratory of Biochemistry at the National Cancer Institute.

In 1991, Gordon became the Alumni Professor and head of molecular biology and pharmacology. From 1994-2003, he also served as the director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

Gordon was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

McDonnell succeeded Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth as chairman of the board of trustees in 1999.

McDonnell first was elected a trustee in 1976. He served two terms on the executive committee (1982-88 and 1995-present) and was named vice chair in 1995. He held various board leadership positions, including chair of the Student Affairs Committee (1980-82) and chair of the Investments Committee (1982-88).

McDonnell began his career at McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1962 as a strength engineer and held a number of positions in the organization. He was elected president in 1980 and was named chairman and chief executive officer in 1988, a position he held until September 1994.

As chairman of the corporation, he successfully led McDonnell Douglas through the early 1990s, when the U.S. defense budget and aerospace markets were shrinking dramatically, and he oversaw the merger of McDonnell Douglas with Boeing to create the nation’s largest, broadest and strongest aerospace company.

McDonnell is a life member of the board of trustees of the St. Louis Science Center and is a member of the boards of directors of Boeing, Zoltek Cos, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BJC HealthCare and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Phillips is the highly acclaimed author of seven collections of poetry.

His first book, In the Blood, won the 1992 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize and was heralded as the work of an outstanding newcomer in the field of contemporary poetry.

His other books are Cortege (1995), a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry; From the Devotions (1998), a finalist for the National Book Award; Pastoral (2000), winner of the Lambda Literary Award;

The Tether, (2001), winner of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Rock Harbor (2002) and The Rest of Love: Poems, published in February.

Phillips has had two additional books published this academic year: a translation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes in September, and the collection Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry, in May.

Phillips is the recipient of, among others, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Foundation Fellowship from the Library of Congress, two Pushcart Prizes and the Academy of American Poets Prize.

His poems, essays and translations have appeared in such journals as The Nation, The Paris Review and The Yale Review, as well as in anthologies, including Best American Poetry (1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002), The Best of the Best American Poetry 1989-1998 and The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poets.

John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots founded the Academy in 1780 “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

The Academy will welcome this year’s new fellows and foreign honorary members at its annual induction ceremony in October at its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Editor’s note: Frieden is a resident of Clayton, Mo. (63105); Gordon is a resident of Olivette, Mo. (63132); McDonnell is a resident of Town & Country, Mo. (63131); and Phillips is a resident of St. Louis, Mo. (63108).