Gift Endows McGehee Lectureship in Graduate School

By Jon Parham

 Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D.
Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D.

The Robert E. McGehee, Jr., Ph.D. Distinguished Lectureship in Biomedical Research was made possible by a gift from the grandparents of a student mentored by McGehee. The couple, who asked to remain anonymous, appreciated McGehee’s support and influence as a mentor.

McGehee, who has led the Graduate School since 2004, also is a professor of pediatrics in the division of neonatology in the UAMS College of Medicine and serves as the executive director of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

“Dr. McGehee is beloved and highly respected by students and he is devoted to making sure they develop critical thinking skills and deep, long-term understanding of complex biomedical concepts,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “He is an outstanding asset to the Graduate School and to UAMS.”

The donors are longtime and strong supporters of UAMS. Previous gifts include support of endowed chairs honoring the late former Chancellor Harry P. Ward, M.D., and the late Carl Nelson, M.D., who was a professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. The donors also were inducted into the Society of the Double Helix recognizing their long support of UAMS.

This gift endows the first distinguished lectureship in the Graduate School.

“I was astounded and very humbled by this remarkable generosity,” said McGehee. “I felt like I had not done more for this particular student than I had for many others throughout my career, nor more than many other faculty members would have done.

“It is the students with whom we have the privilege and opportunity to work who deserve the most credit. That path we often point them down is not at all trivial, and as mentors, we can suggest and facilitate particular avenues for them to follow, but at the end of the day, the onus to actually carry it out is on them.”

McGehee said the distinguished lectureship should be recognized as an institutional gift that will impact the education of students across not only the Graduate School, but also the five colleges. The gift will be used in perpetuity to support an annual distinguished lecture by a high-profile leader in biomedical research and education.

“I am truly honored to be recognized in this wonderful manner by such gracious donors,” McGehee said. “This gift is substantial enough that we will be able to invite almost anyone we want, which is beneficial in countless ways to both UAMS and the state of Arkansas.”

The inaugural McGehee Distinguished Lecture will be held March 8 with Bert W. O’Malley, M.D., the Tom Thompson Distinguished Service Professor and chair of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“Dr. O’Malley is a remarkable individual, who has had a truly amazing career in biomedical research and considered by many to be the ‘father of molecular endocrinology’ for his work in the field of hormone action,” McGehee said. “I am extremely pleased to have him for our inaugural lecture.”

McGehee said he and the donors hope that with additional gifts, the endowment could grow into a professorship (supported by $500,000 in gifts) or a chair (supported by $1 million) of which the annual lectureship will be a permanent component.