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NIEHS Honors Long-Time Director

By Eddy Ball
October 2008

Olden, center
Olden, center, shared a laugh with colleagues, left to right, Allen Deary, Ph.D., Anne Sassaman, Ph.D., and Ray Tennant, Ph.D., standing. Seated to Tennant's right is fellow cancer investigator Trevor Archer, Ph.D. (Photo by Eddy Ball)

With the speeches out of the way, people began to take advantage of the refreshments. (Photo by Eddy Ball)

Former Scientific Director Lutz Birnbaumer, Ph.D., left, and Wilson, center
Former Scientific Director Lutz Birnbaumer, Ph.D., left, and Wilson, center, were recruited by NIEHS during Olden's tenure as director. (Photo by Eddy Ball)

Although he's officially a retiree now, Director Emeritus and Principal Investigator Ken Olden, Ph.D., will still be going into the office regularly after he moves to New York for his next challenge in public health. On August 30, Olden's friends and colleagues from throughout the Institute flocked to the Rall Building B200 Conference Room during a lunchtime party to offer him their best wishes with his new position and say farewell to the man who led NIEHS for 14 years.

Olden decided to end his 23-year career with NIH this summer when he accepted an offer to become the dean of the new school of public health at the City University of New York (CUNY) - the first school of public health at CUNY and the first such program designed with an urban focus. Olden, who will work from the Hunter College campus, has made a three-year commitment to the challenge of creating the program and making it a sustainable part of the CUNY system.

Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., praised Olden's contributions to the environmental health sciences and presented him with a plaque in recognition of his service to the NIH and NIEHS. Wilson was one of several senior staffers in attendance who were recruited by Olden when he was director of NIEHS.

Olden spoke briefly of his excitement about being on the front lines of an emerging paradigm in public health education. He also assured his friends and colleagues that he would see them soon. He and his wife, Sandie White, Ph.D., plan to keep their home in North Carolina and to return there regularly. Olden said, "I'm sure I'll be back on campus frequently to visit and take advantage of the library."

With the formalities behind them, well-wishers mingled and enjoyed sandwiches and snacks before making their way back to their labs and offices. Afterwards, with his hands full of official and personal gifts, the former director walked along the C-module mall, saying goodbye to the people he met along the way, and then left the NIEHS campus to begin the next phase of his long career in science.

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