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Tuesday, December 9, 2003, 12:00 p.m. EDT
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (http://www.niehs.nih.gov) Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., will be presented the honorary degree of Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Charleston and will deliver the commencement address for 80 master's degree and 450 bachelor's degree recipients and approximately 7,000 guests at the ceremony on Dec. 21 at the North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, S.C.
Since 1991, Dr. Olden has served a dual appointment as director of both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, and of the National Toxicology Program within the Department of Health and Human Services, both headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
In July, Dr. Olden announced that he will step down from his dual role as director to pursue his laboratory research and spend more time with his family. He is an internationally recognized researcher in cancer biology.
His tenure at NIEHS and NTP has been marked by the application of genetic tools to the study of environmental toxins and by NIEHS researchers partnering to isolate the first breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Many women in breast-cancer-prone families are now tested for these genes.
Also as director, Dr. Olden has pressed for action on the health disparities faced by the poor and racial minorities, and for the more active participation of the American people in the priority setting process in medical research. Through town meetings across the United States and research partnerships with communities, he has provided opportunities for citizens to have input into the priority setting process.
Born in poverty on an eastern Tennessee farm, Dr. Olden was the first African American to direct one of the National Institutes of Health. He earned a B.S. at Knoxville College, an M.S. from University of Michigan, and in 1970, a doctorate in biology from Temple University in Philadelphia. He did much of the research for that doctorate at the University of Rochester, where he was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Sciences in May 2003.
Other honors and awards include appointment by President George H. W. Bush to membership on the National Cancer Advisory Board, membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Calver Award from the American Public Health Association, the HHS Secretary's Distinguished Service Award, the President's Meritorious and Distinguished Executive Award, and the American College of Toxicology's first Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Olden and his wife Sandra L. White, Ph.D., and daughter Heather live in Durham, N.C. He also has three grown children.
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