Kreuter installed as Eugene S. and Constance Kahn Family Professor of Public Health

New Brown School professorship established by Kahn family

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton prepares to install Matthew W. Kreuter, PhD (center), as the Eugene S. and Constance Kahn Family Professor as Brown School Dean Edward Lawlor looks on. (Credit: Whitney Curtis/wustl photos)

Matthew W. Kreuter, PhD, professor of social work and of medicine, associate dean for public health at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a faculty scholar in the Institute for Public Health, was installed Sept. 2 as the inaugural holder of the Eugene S. and Constance Kahn Family Professorship in Public Health.

Kreuter also is founder and senior scientist of the nationally recognized Health Communication Research Laboratory (HCRL), one of five National Cancer Institute-designated Centers of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research in the United States from 2003-14.

A former retail industry leader, Eugene S. Kahn and his wife, Constance, established the new professorship. The Kahn family’s gifts and commitments totaling $2 million for the professorship follow on the heels of their five-year, $250,000 challenge grant to increase scholarship support for Brown School students.

“I am deeply grateful to Gene and Connie Kahn for their dedication to and support of Washington University and the Brown School, in particular,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “Their gifts to establish an endowed professorship and to support scholarships will provide significant resources to Brown faculty and students whose work directly impacts the social and economic development of our communities.”

“Gene and Connie’s leadership at our school takes many forms, and we are grateful for their extraordinary generosity,” said Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School and the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor of Social Work. Lawlor also is a founding director of the Institute for Public Health.

“This professorship advances our school’s faculty development in public health and recognizes one of our great ones, Matt Kreuter,” Lawlor said. “Professor Kreuter is a path-breaking scholar in health communication research and the leader of our Master of Public Health program. His energy, passion, leadership and creativity are all qualities that reflect the Kahn family’s own values and aspirations for this professorship.”

About Matthew W. Kreuter

In his mission to improve health outcomes among low-income and minority populations, Kreuter’s research focuses on increasing the reach and effectiveness of health information to these communities, and using technology and communication to connect people to needed health services.

His work is based on the fact that poor people and people of color in the U.S. bear a disproportionate burden of negative health outcomes compared with other groups. These populations often experience more life stresses and risky exposures and have fewer opportunities for living healthy lives.

Another major factor contributing to negative health outcomes is the failure of critical health information to reach these groups most at risk.

Kreuter’s pioneering work has made significant inroads addressing the problem of health disparities, but many challenges still exist. These include translating scientific discoveries in health communication into widespread practice and integrating public health efforts with social-service systems that address other challenges vulnerable populations face.

Kreuter’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kreuter joined the Saint Louis University faculty in 1993 as an assistant professor in behavioral science and health education in the Department of Community Health, and he was promoted to professor in 2005. Three years later, Kreuter joined the Brown School faculty as a professor with a dual appointment at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis’ Department of Surgery.

In addition to hundreds of journal articles and more than a dozen book chapters, he has co-written two books: “Tailoring Health Messages: Customizing Communication Using Computer Technology,” which is the first comprehensive book on the subject; and “Community Health Promotion Ideas that Work,” now in its second edition.

Kreuter’s contributions to his profession include serving on several advisory boards, among them the United Way 2-1-1 of Greater St. Louis; the Population Health and Public Health Practice for the Institute of Medicine; and the University of Michigan Center for Health Communications Research.

Eugene and Constance Kahn

After the installation, Kreuter posed with Eugene (left) and Constance Kahn. (Credit: Whitney Curtis/wustl photos)

The Kahns’ financial support of Washington University and the Brown School is just one component of their commitment. Added to that is the time Gene Kahn contributes in his leadership roles for the Brown School, which include being chair of the Brown School’s National Council and the school’s campaign committee for Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University. He also is a member of the Institute for Public Health’s National Council.

For the university, Gene Kahn serves on the Board of Trustees and is a member of the Danforth Circle Committee for the William Greenleaf Eliot Society.

In addition to giving his time and talent to Washington University, Gene Kahn serves on the boards of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Goldfarb School of Nursing.

Connie Kahn has been active with St. Louis cultural and charitable organizations including the Missouri History Museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Science Center and the St. Louis chapter of the American Diabetes Association. Other organizations have and continue to benefit from Connie’s dedicated service to the local and larger community. She is an honorary member of the Women’s Society of Washington University.

The Kahns are sustaining charter members of The Danforth Circle Chancellor’s Level.

Gene Kahn’s career

Gene Kahn’s retail career spanned four decades from 1971-2012.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York, Kahn began his career at Gimbel’s New York. From there, he began his ascent in retailing, holding senior positions first at Bamberger’s in New Jersey, then Macy’s and May Department Stores Co., and finally at Claire’s Stores Inc.

Kahn held a number of merchandising and store management positions at the Macy’s organization, rising to group senior vice president before joining May in 1990 as president and chief executive officer of the G Fox division, located in Hartford, Conn.

It was at May where he made his mark. Six years after joining the national department store chain, Kahn was named vice chairman, elected to its board of directors, and promoted to a corporate position in St. Louis. Just two years later, in 1998, Kahn became the company’s president and chief executive officer. He subsequently assumed the role of chairman and CEO in 2001.

During his tenure at the helm, Kahn was credited with modernizing existing stores and expanding its base through acquisition while simultaneously expanding May’s targeted demographics to include a younger customer profile in order to compete more effectively on the evolving retail landscape. He also expanded merchandise and services in the formal wear and bridal registry business with the acquisition of David’s Bridal and After Hours Formalwear.

Kahn left May in 2005, but two years later re-entered the retail industry to become the chief executive officer of Claire’s Stores Inc., a global specialty retailer offering value-priced costume jewelry and fashion accessories geared to the tween, teen and young adult consumers. When he retired in 2012, the business had expanded to include 24 countries on both an owned and franchised basis.