Published April 26, 2016
Distinguished UB faculty members Paras Prasad and Claude E. Welch Jr. will receive the UB President’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary service to the university during the 170th annual University Commencement on May 15.
Also during the ceremony, SUNY honorary doctorates will be presented to Leslie G. Ford, associate director for clinical research for the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention, and Helene D. Gayle, chief executive officer of the McKinsey Social Initiative.
The UB President’s Medal, first presented in 1990, recognizes “outstanding scholarly or artistic achievements, humanitarian acts, contributions of time or treasure, exemplary leadership or any other major contribution to the development of the University at Buffalo and the quality of life in the UB community.”
Paras Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering, also serves as executive director of UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.
In 2005, Scientific American named him among the top 50 science and technology leaders in the world. He has published more than 750 scientific papers, along with four field-defining monographs in nonlinear optics, biophotonics, nanophotonics and nanomedicine, and eight edited books; he also holds numerous patents.
Among his many awards are the Morley Medal and the Schoellkopf Medal from the American Chemical Society, Guggenheim and Sloan fellowships, the Western New York Health Care Industries Technology/Discovery Award, a SUNY Excellence in the Pursuit of Knowledge award, and the SPIE President’s Gold Medal, as well as UB’s first Innovation Impact award.
Prasad is a fellow of the American Physical Society, Optical Society of America and SPIE — the international society for optics and photonics.
Beyond his outstanding scholastic and research achievements, he helped pioneer UB’s multidisciplinary research paradigm, establishing the university-wide Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, and introducing new interdisciplinary courses, initiating many international exchange programs and joint research institutes, and launching spinoff companies based on technologies developed at his institute. One of these, Nanobiotix, is now a publicly traded company that has brought royalty revenue in excess of $1 million to UB.
Claude Welch, who hold the rank of SUNY Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, is renowned across UB and his field for his excellence in teaching and scholarly research. His areas of academic expertise include African politics, the roles of armed forces in politics, and human rights.
Focusing specifically on human rights as the main concentration of his research for the past 30 years, Welch has published 14 books and nearly 40 chapters and articles in academic journals. Chairing or serving on approximately 60 dissertation committees over the course of his career, he has been recognized repeatedly for his pedagogical excellence. A recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Welch has received three teaching awards from political science students and three from the undergraduate Student Association, in addition to being named one of UB’s “Top Ten” professors by The Spectrum, the student newspaper.
Welch, who will retire at the end of the spring semester after 52 years as a UB faculty member, received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 from TIAA-CREF and the SUNY Research Foundation. He also received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Political Science Association in 2014 and from the International Studies Association in 2015, both for his contributions to human rights.
Honorary degree recipient Leslie G. Ford is one of the most influential clinical scientists in the U.S. in the area of cancer prevention research, having a profound impact on the health of women and men around the world. As associate director for clinical research for the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Division of Cancer Prevention — part of the National Institutes of Health — her leadership and vision helped create and establish clinical cancer prevention research as an area of study and practice. Her work led to the creation of the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) — a sophisticated network of community-based cancer clinics that has facilitated participation in NCI-sponsored prevention, treatment and cancer-control studies.
Ford spearheaded groundbreaking studies — among them the landmark Breast Cancer Prevention Trial and study of tamoxifen and raloxifene, or STAR trial — proving that breast cancer prevention is possible and demonstrating the effectiveness of several medications for the purpose of preventing cancer.
She also directed the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, which evaluated finasteride for prevention and collected critical information about prostate-specific antigen testing. This work also demonstrated the importance of community researchers, as well as the ability to structure and implement nationwide drug trials to produce effective chemo-preventive drugs.
A UB alumna — MD ’74, BS ’69 — Ford received international recognition from the European Institute of Oncology in 2007 for her “outstanding passion and pivotal role in creating, sustaining and confirming the value of cancer prevention in modern oncology.”
Honorary degree recipient Helene D. Gayle is an internationally recognized expert on health, global development and humanitarian issues who has dedicated her career to helping improve the lives and health of millions of people around the world.
Currently CEO of the McKinsey Social Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing complex global and social challenges, Gayle has focused her work in several primary areas: combatting HIV/AIDS, empowering and improving opportunity for girls and women, and eradicating global poverty, illiteracy and illness. She is developing new partnerships with the public and private sectors to tackle such global challenges as youth unemployment, gender inequality and health disparities.
A Buffalo native, Gayle has had a profound impact on global health issues, and her work has inspired public health and medical professionals in her hometown and around the world. Serving for more than two decades at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she focused her work on the prevention of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.
Appointed as the first director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, she achieved the rank of rear admiral and assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service. She is a former chair of the Obama administration’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, as well as a former president of the International AIDS Society.