Environmental Factor, October 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Event Celebrates Johnson-Thompson's Career
By Eddy Ball
Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., served as NIEH director of Education and Biomedical Research from 1994 (see related story (http://www.niehs.nih.gov//news/newsletter/2008/october/johnsonthompson.cfm)), when she was recruited by former Director Ken Olden, Ph.D. On September 22, people from NIEHS, the greater scientific community and her family filled Rodbell Auditorium to celebrate her career. The retirement ceremony was organized by friends at NIEHS and moderated by NIEHS Acting Deputy Director Bill Suk, Ph.D.
As a collage of photos from Johnson-Thompson's years at NIEHS filled the screens in the auditorium, speaker after speaker praised her accomplishments as a microbiologist, educator, patient and human rights advocate, trusted advisor, friend and sorority sister. Several speakers praised Johnson-Thompson's tenacity in the defense of what she felt was right and her ability to disagree with colleagues on the NIEHS Institutional Review Board (IRB) without taking things personally.
One speaker, longtime friend Sandie White, Ph.D., lauded Johnson-Thompson for "fighting the good fight." Another, NIH colleague Kay Johnson Graham, Ph.D. observed that Johnson-Thompson's mission to expand science education opportunities for minorities and underserved populations demonstrated her commitment to genuine equality of opportunity.
The final speaker at the ceremony, NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., described Johnson-Thompson as "one of the closest advisors to me" and the many planning meetings they had together over the years. Wilson credited her with inspiring some of the most effective and innovative education and recruitment programs anywhere.
Well-wishers presented the retiree with personal gifts and mementos. Colleague Sharon Beard gave her a collage of photos from their work together, NIEHS Acting Clinical Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., presented a plaque on behalf of the IRB, and Suk gave Johnson-Thompson a vase on behalf of colleagues at the Institute. Wilson presented her with a panoramic photo of the Institute signed by friends and colleagues.
Closing out the program, Johnson-Thompson talked of the challenges and rewards of her work at NIEHS. She was visibly moved by the words of her friends and colleagues, and her voice quivered with emotion as she thanked the audience and offered them her best wishes.