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Veteran Biologist Larry Champion Begins Second Career

By Eddy Ball
August 2010

Larry Champion
Sporting the new addition to his wardrobe, Champion was clearly pleased by the turn out of people wishing him luck in his new career and sharing fond memories of their time together at NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Emcee Essie Jones
Jones, above, smiled as she recalled working with Champion. The two provided lab support for quality control of glassware media. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Dee Anderson reads her poem.
After reading her poem to the audience, Anderson gave Champion a framed copy of her tribute. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

George Kimble and Jennie Foushee
Kimble, left, joined Foushee after his vocal performance. Speaking of his own retirement, Kimble said that these days he tells friends, "Don't call me before 9:30." (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jim Mason, Ph.D., presents Champion's certificate.
Mason, who showed the audience Champion's certificate, was Champion's first and only supervisor at NIEHS. Mason once told Champion that he was hired because of his self-confidence. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics (LMG) Biologist Larry Champion made it clear June 29 that he was separating after 30 years of federal service, but not really retiring. As Champion told a group of more than 50 friends and colleagues attending his going away party in the NIEHS cafeteria, he'll begin teaching full time August 16, after teaching as an adjunct for several years.

Party organizers created a program to honor their longtime coworker, which opened with piano accompaniment by Jennie Foushee, project officer for the glassware media group. Emcee Essie Jones, a biological aide in Champion's group and assistant project officer, led off tributes to her colleague with a fond remembrance of their years together. She spoke for Champion's many friends at NIEHS, when she observed, "Larry will be well missed by me and a lot of people in this room."

Tributes from Champion's colleagues included a performance of "You've Been Faithful" by tenor George Kimble, a retired NIEHS electrician. After his song, Kimble told Champion, "Now it's your time to be blessed." Colleague Dee Anderson read her poem, "I Hate to Say 'Goodbye,'" and Michael Watkins gave a heartfelt expression of thanks on behalf of his fellow glassware media employees. LMG Drosophila Chromosome Structure Group Principal Investigator Jim Mason, Ph.D., gave his colleague of more than three decades a framed certificate of appreciation and a lapel pin as mementos.

When it was her turn to speak, Foushee presented the retiree with a signed photo of NIEHS and a cash gift from friends to help Champion "remember us forever." NIEHS retiree Ann Kersey handed Champion a hat embroidered with the words "Retired and Loving It" and a card to "Celebrate Good Times," as a recording of the Kool and the Gang song played in the background.

Cafeteria employee Lakesia Register recalled the many mornings she greeted Champion and Jones at breakfast and noted the need "to find Essie a new breakfast partner." She said she always enjoyed seeing Champion and appreciated his genuine friendliness and unfailing courtesy, even when things weren't quite up to par.

Organizers concluded the tributes with a video remembrance of Champion over the course of his decades of service at NIEHS, accompanied by a recording of the Impressions' hit song, "Keep on Pushing."

Fellowship and reminiscences continued as more guests arrived to offer their congratulations to Champion on his career at NIEHS and his future teaching. Visitors then tackled the generous buffet that spread across eight tables at the front of the cafeteria.

Jennie Foushee presents signed photo to Larry Champion.
Foushee smiled as she held up the signed photo of NIEHS she presented to Champion. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Ann Kersey hugs Larry Champion.
Old friends Champion and Kersey hugged after she presented him with her gift. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Fruit basket
This watermelon fruit basket on display showed the love and care that organizers put into their impressive afternoon spread. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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