Current Issue: February 23, 2011

Stepping Down

With my time as president of The Rockefeller University coming to an end in just a few weeks I want to take this opportunity — my last column in BenchMarks — to express both how much I appreciate having had the opportunity to lead this great university and the pleasure of working with an outstanding group of colleagues for nearly eight years.

Tom Muir to leave Rockefeller for Princeton

Tom W. Muir, a chemist who studies molecular recognition in cellular signal transduction, has been appointed the Van Zandt Williams, Jr. Class of 1965 Professor in Chemistry at Princeton University. Dr. Muir is currently dividing his time between the Upper East Side and Princeton as he sets up a new lab and winds down operations in Smith Hall, and will formally move to Princeton in April.

CoreSource named new health plan administrator

coresourceThe Rockefeller University has chosen CoreSource, Inc., a national administrator of self-funded health insurance plans, to replace The Principal Financial Group as the university’s third-party benefits administrator. The change in providers, which was effective as of January 1, 2011, means a new team will process claims for Rockefeller employees covered by the self-funded Rockefeller health plan and those who have dental insurance or flexible spending accounts. There are no changes to the terms of the policies themselves and Oxford plans are not affected.

Bent to the breaking point

treeEighteen inches of wet, heavy snow didn’t just look pretty, it also stuck to tree branches, loading them with hundreds of extra pounds of dead weight. From the perspective of the university’s trees, the January 26 snowstorm was the worst in over a decade. Among the hardest hit were an American holly near the entrance to the Bronk building, and a blue atlas cedar on the southeast corner of Caspary Auditorium. Both will survive, but will need to be treated by an arborist in the spring.

Lavoisier painting returns to Rockefeller

lavoisier_lgFor more than 50 years, a dramatic life-size painting of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, considered by many to be the father of modern chemistry, hung in Welch Hall. Painted in 1788 by Jacques-Louis David, it depicts Lavoisier seated at his workbench, lab notebook in hand, surrounded by scientific apparatuses and conversing with his wife and collaborator Marie-Anne Pierette Paulze. It’s a dramatic and inspirational work of art, but since 1977 viewing it has required a long walk to Fifth Avenue. The university sold it 34 years ago and it now hangs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Originally a gift from John D. Rockefeller, who bought it (via a dealer) from Mr. Lavoisier’s family, the painting was one of several valuable works sold in the seventies. The proceeds from its sale — about $4 million — were used to endow two professorships and four graduate fellowships. Maclyn McCarty and Norton Zinder were the first recipients of the professorships.

Patricia Wills-Abrahams

For 20 years, Patricia Wills-Abrahams guaranteed things ran smoothly at Rockfeller’s Office of Planning and Construction. As office manager, she handled financial statements and contacts with outside contractors and made sure the department’s staff was well provisioned. “In this office, we all do a little bit of everything, and she was really the jack of all trades,” said George Candler, associate vice president, who hired her as his assistant two decades ago. Ms. Wills-Abrahams passed away January 2.


C. David Allis, the 2011 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science from Brandeis University. He shares the prize with Michael Grunstein, a professor of biological chemistry in the Geffen School of Medicine and the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA, for establishing “the key molecular connections between histones, histone modifications and chromatin structure and their effect on the regulation of gene transcription.” The award will be presented at Brandeis on April 14, 2011. Dr. Allis is the Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics.