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Scientific symposia mark milestone birthdays for Ronald Evans and Geoffrey Wahl

Ronald Evans and Geoffrey Wahl

Two of the institute’s most distinguished senior scientists recently celebrated landmark birthdays, Salk style. Daylong scientific symposia for Geoffrey Wahl’s and Ronald Evans’ 65th birthdays paid homage to their remarkable careers, featuring tributes by colleagues and presentations by speakers who had played important roles in their professional lives. Family members and friends also put in guest appearances, and the proceedings were leavened with liberal doses of good-natured ribbing. Each symposium ended with remarks by the honoree, followed by a reception.

The festivities began April 4 with the symposium marking Wahl’s 65th birthday, although it was nearly a year late, rescheduled to coincide with the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which was held in San Diego. (Wahl served as president of the organization in 2006.) Guest speakers included 2007 Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah, who had been Wahl’s doctoral advisor; George Stark, from the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, his postdoctoral mentor; Peter Jones, from USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, also a former president of the AACR; Arnie Levine from the Institute for Advanced Study; Gigi Lozano from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Dan Von Hoff from TGen (the Translational Genetics Institute) in Phoenix, Arizona. As a sabbatical visitor in Wahl’s lab, Von Hoff got him interested in both translational research and the AACR.

Whimsical posters announcing the birthday symposia for Ronald Evans (left) and Geoffrey Wahl (right).

Evans’ 65th birthday symposium, held June 2, featured his postdoctoral advisor, James Darnell of Rockefeller University; Leslie Anne Leinwand from the University of Colorado; Bert O’Malley, a colleague from Baylor College of Medicine; Pierre Chambon of IGBMC in France, a “friendly competitor” who shared the 2004 Lasker Prize with Evans; former postdocs David Mangelsdorf of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Katja Lamia from The Scripps Research Institute; and 1985 Nobel laureate Joseph Goldstein of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Following the formal part of each program, the honoree was presented with a walker and other gag gifts. Salk’s senior illustrator Jamie Simon created humorous posters for the symposia—Wahl’s, a take-off of Dr. Strangelove, and Evans’, a play on A Beautiful Mind– establishing a tone that was equal parts serious science and lighthearted homage to two world-class investigators.