Trustees meet, hear from medical school faculty about advances in cancer research


At the Washington University in St. Louis Board of Trustees meeting Thursday and Friday, March 5 and 6, the trustees heard presentations from School of Medicine faculty about advances in cancer research, treatment and prevention and received a report from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton that included updates on administrative appointments, admissions, athletics and construction.

On Thursday afternoon, prior to the business meeting on Friday, eight medical school faculty members gave talks on topics that included cancer imaging, advances in cancer genomics and using the immune system for personalized cancer treatment.

During Friday’s meeting, Ralph S. Quatrano, PhD, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Spencer T. Olin Professor, gave an update on the school’s priorities and its Leading Together capital campaign.

Also on Friday, the chancellor presented his report to the board in which he noted the recent appointments of three key university positions: Aaron Bobick, PhD, professor and founding chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, effective July 1; Legail P. Chandler, formerly assistant dean and executive director of human resources at the School of Medicine, as vice chancellor for human resources; and Rochelle Smith, director of diversity, summer programs and community outreach for the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, as assistant provost of diversity initiatives.

Wrighton also noted the recent announcements that two long-serving deans were stepping down. Larry J. Shapiro, MD, will step down as executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine. He will remain in the post, which he has held for nearly 12 years, until a national search is conducted and his replacement found.

Robert E. Wiltenburg, PhD, will step down after nearly 20 years as dean of University College in Arts & Sciences at the end of this academic year. Wiltenburg plans a sabbatical during the fall 2015 semester and a return to teaching in spring 2016.

The chancellor reported that the Admissions Office has received more than 29,000 applications for the upcoming freshman class, which is slightly ahead of last year’s total applications and the second highest in the university’s history. Decision notices will be released soon.

He made note of a recent Chicago news story on Kierra Harris, who will be a first-generation college student when she enters WashU as a freshman this fall. He referred to Harris, an early-decision applicant, as an example of a bright student who needs financial assistance to attend college.

Wrighton reiterated Washington University’s firm commitment to be within the financial reach of all highly qualified students and to increase the number of students eligible for the Federal Pell Grant Program, an important indicator of economic diversity.

Wrighton was pleased to report that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were hosting opening-round games of the 2015 NCAA Division III championship tournament. The men’s basketball team, ranked No. 14 overall, received an at-large bid and hosted DePauw University Thursday, March 5. Despite an 83-73 loss, the men’s team ended the regular season with a strong 20-6 record.

The No. 8-ranked women’s basketball team captured the UAA Championship and the league’s automatic bid with a 23-2 overall record. The Bears hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, winning both to advance to the NCAA sectional Friday, March 13.

Wrighton also noted, among other Athletics highlights, that 15 student-athletes on the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team will compete at the NCAA Division III Championships March 18-21 in Shenandoah, Texas, and that the men’s indoor track and field team placed first and the women earned runner-up honors at the UAA Indoor Championship, held March 1 in Chicago. The UAA title for the men was its second-straight and 14th overall.

Wrighton gave an update on a number of construction projects on both the Danforth and Medical campuses.

He noted that Skinker Boulevard between Forest Park Parkway and Delmar Boulevard is looking much brighter thanks to Washington University’s installation of new pedestrian-scale lighting, blue-light emergency phones and improvements to the street lighting.

On the Danforth Campus, he said progress continues on Hillman Hall, the Brown School and Institute for Public Health expansion, scheduled for completion by June, and the new Sumers Fitness and Recreation Center, to be ready in August 2016.

He said that master planning continues for the East Campus and for the South 40.

On the Medical Campus, construction on the Scott McKinley Research Building is progressing with move-in expected by August and the new Shriners Hospitals for Children-St. Louis, solely funded and managed by Shriners, is nearly finished.

Construction began in February on a two-story South County medical office building that will offer out-patient and same-day surgery medical services. A new off-site pediatric ambulatory center in West County will be completed by May.

In his remarks to the board, Wrighton highlighted numerous faculty awards and recognitions. They include Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology and the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor at the School of Medicine, receiving the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, which recognizes scientists whose research has major benefits to humanity; and Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, being elected president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

He also noted recent and upcoming professorship installations, student activities and achievements, and research advancements and awards, including $30 million over the next five years for two major Alzheimer’s disease studies at the School of Medicine from the National Institutes on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Among other university events, Wrighton noted the Feb. 5-6 “Race & Ethnicity: A Day of Discovery and Dialogue,” which included a series of panel conversations and open forums with scholars, students and leaders exploring challenges that the university community is facing, particularly in light of recent events in the St. Louis region and across the country.

The chancellor also acknowledged the deaths of seven members of the Washington University community: David B. Gray, PhD, professor of occupational therapy and of neurology at the School of Medicine, who died Feb. 12 at age 71; Kevin Herbert, PhD, professor emeritus of classics in Arts & Sciences, who died Feb. 10 at age 93; Sigrid Thach, wife of former dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Robert Thach, who died Jan. 27; Jeigh Singleton, associate professor emeritus of fashion design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, who died Jan. 11 at age 70; James P. Keating, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, who died Dec. 25, 2014, at age 76; Herbert Rosenbaum, MD, professor emeritus of neurology at the School of Medicine, who died Dec. 10, 2014, at age 89; and Richard A. Dammkoehler, professor emeritus of computer science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, who died Nov. 7, 2014, at age 79.

Student representatives to the board provided comments. Presenting were senior Maya Walton, an urban studies major in Arts & Sciences, and Gregory Ebersole, a fourth-year MD candidate in the School of Medicine.

In addition, the trustees heard reports from the following committees: development, educational policy, global engagement, medical finance, nominating and governance, and university finance and received written reports from the audit and the Alumni Board of Governors committees.