Needlemans receive Eliot Society ‘Search’ Award

Spring celebration honors Sima and Philip Needleman, hosts appearance by former Secretary of State James Baker, III

It is one of the most anticipated rites of spring on campus: friends of Washington University in St. Louis gather to mark another year of generosity from the group of alumni, parents and colleagues who collectively provide the largest amount of unrestricted support to the university through membership in the William Greenleaf Eliot Society.

At this year’s Eliot Society event May 11 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, members enjoyed fine dining and camaraderie, heard an address by former Secretary of State James Baker, III and watched as Sima and Philip Needleman received the Society’s “Search” Award for their extraordinary dedication to Washington University.

“This year’s Search awardees, Philip and Sima Needleman, have an enduring association with Washington University, and have served the institution in many important ways,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton says. “It was a pleasure to acknowledge their significant and lasting contributions.”

Eliot Society President John Beuerlein introduced Baker, JD, who provided timely insights regarding foreign policy and current events in the Middle East.

Over the course of three decades, Baker served in a number of cabinet level positions for three United States presidents.

He entered public service in 1975 as President Gerald Ford’s under secretary of commerce. He held two positions in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, as chief of staff and as secretary of the treasury. He was then appointed to President George H. W. Bush’s cabinet as secretary of state. In addition, Baker led the presidential campaigns for Ford, Reagan and Bush.

Baker, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, currently is a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts. He is the author of two books: The Politics of Diplomacy and his memoir, Work Hard, Study … and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life.

As “Search” awardees, the Needlemans join a long list of outstanding individuals whose service and support have helped make WUSTL the world-class teaching and research institution it is today.

Sima Needleman is a devoted teacher and social work professional, committed volunteer and enthusiastic advocate for several organizations, in addition to Washington University.

After earning a master’s degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Sima Needleman worked as a medical social worker at Jewish Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish Hospital). After 16 years, she opened a private practice.

An active alumna, Sima has held a number of leadership positions at the Brown School, starting as a member of the school’s alumni board and serving as its president from 1993-95. She also has led the school’s annual fund and has served on its national council for the past 18 years.

In addition to her service to WUSTL, she is engaged in the work of several organizations and is a member of the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League, A World of Difference Institute and the Jewish Family and Children’s Service. Additionally, she is a longtime advocate for and member of the American Red Cross, Mentor St. Louis and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Philip Needleman, PhD, began his long and distinguished career with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis as a professor in the Department of Pharmacology. He also chaired the department from 1976-1989. He held the position of associate dean for special projects at the medical school, and was the inaugural holder of the Alumni Endowed Professorship.

Research conducted during his tenure here resulted in several important discoveries, including the inflammation target cox-2, which led to the development of Celebrex, a medical treatment for arthritis and colon cancer.

In 1989, Philip left academia to become chief scientist at Monsanto. Four years later he became president of Searle Research and Development, then senior vice president following the merger of Monsanto and Pharmacia.

Most recently, he served as interim president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and is currently interim president and chief executive officer of the Saint Louis Science Center.

He was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 1988 and the Institute of Medicine in 2001. He also was named special adviser at Ben Gurion University in Israel for creating the National Institute of Biotechnology of the Negev.

Both Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital have been the recipients of Philip’s counsel. He is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and serves on two national councils, for the School of Medicine and for University Research and Development. He has also served on the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Board.

Among the honors he has garnered at Washington University are the Distinguished Faculty Award, which he has received five times; the medical school’s Second Century Award; and in 1999 Philip received an honorary doctor of science degree. Academic and professional honors include the American Heart Association’s Research Achievement Award and the National Academy of Sciences Award for Industrial Application of Research.

While their generosity of time and talent have been substantial, the Needlemans have also been very generous in their financial support, which includes an endowed professorship at the School of Medicine as well as two endowed scholarships at the Brown School. Furthermore, they are members of The Danforth Circle Chancellor’s Level and are Life Patrons of the Eliot Society.

The William Greenleaf Eliot Society, named after Washington University’s co-founder, was established in 1959 to help support student assistance programs, sponsored scholarships, faculty development and recruitment, educational resources and facility improvements.