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NIH Record Retirees

OD's Bonnie Kalberer Retires

By Margaret Warker

Bonnie Kalberer only intended to work at NIH for 2 years. Now — more than 30 years later — she is retiring. Why did she decide to spend her career at NIH? "It boils down to the people; I've worked with and for some wonderful people."

Her advice to those starting careers at the NIH is to "Work hard, have a good time at what you're doing, and keep an open mind." And according to her colleagues, she has followed her own advice. "Professional ...thorough...hard working...a person with sound judgement and initiative ..." — that's how her associates describe Kalberer.

Bonnie Kalberer

She began her NIH career in personnel, serving as personnel officer in NINDS and NIDCR, and later moved into management, science education policy, and program development and implementation.

Carol Storm, now an NIH intern coordinator with the Division of Human Resource Program Support, worked with Kalberer in the 1970's. Storm says Kalberer helped her and several others convert from support to professional jobs. "Bonnie did a tremendous amount of good. She's just a bright, smart, capable, caring person. She mentored me. Everyone should have a boss like Bonnie. She always respected and valued my opinions. I never felt like a second class citizen when I worked with her."

Mimi Blitz, now a human resource consultant with the Division of Senior and Scientific Employment, worked for Kalberer during the same period. She says Kalberer, "was a great mentor and great to work for, giving me independence and freedom to develop and grow, but always being there for consultation and support. Certainly those of us who were privileged to work with her and for her are much better for the experience."

Kalberer reached a turning point in her career when she served as program director of the NIH Centennial Observance in the mid-1980's. This role stimulated her interest in building public awareness about NIH and public understanding of science.

She went on to assume increasingly responsible positions, including serving as assistant director for program operations in the NIH Office of Science Policy (OSP), which at various times encompassed the NIH offices for planning, evaluation, legislative analysis, alternative medicine, and technology transfer. She was the first director of the NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) and was responsible for the development of programs still popular today such as the Mini-Med School and Science in the Cinema.

In 1995, Kalberer did an 18-month assignment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) where she served as a senior policy analyst, working with public affairs and legislative personnel as well as senior science policy advisors to the President.

Kalberer says she "feels fortunate to have worked with a wide range of people both inside and outside the NIH" and is "an advocate of interagency cooperation and coordination." Among her achievements while at the White House, Kalberer helped establish the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers to recognize promising beginning investigators across agencies. She worked closely with the National Science and Technology Council and the President's committee of advisors on science and technology in health care and science education issues.

Since returning to OSP, Kalberer worked first as acting director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Evaluation and, most recently, as a special assistant, developing a strategic plan for OSE. She also continued to work closely with OSTP staff on issues of interest to NIH.

OSE director Dr. Bruce Fuchs says, "Bonnie is a wonderful mentor! She recruited me here from the Medical College of Virginia, taught me a great deal about NIH and science policy at the federal level, and recommended that I be appointed acting director of OSE when she went to the White House. I continue to depend on her for advice and counsel."

Kalberer earned a bachelor of business administration with a focus in marketing from the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, and a master of public administration from American University.

She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Public Health Service Special Recognition Award, the NIH Director's Award, and the NIDCR EEO Award.

Kalberer and her husband plan to remain in the Bethesda area. She will divide her time among family, consulting and volunteer work at the White House, for the Washington Area Women's Foundation, and for Westie Rescue. (Kalberer is very attached to her Westie, named Barnaby.)

A world traveler, she hopes to revisit some of her favorite spots — such as Hawaii and Great Britain — and explore new ones. An avid tennis player and former winner of NIH singles championships, she also looks forward to reestablishing her tennis game.

Husband and Wife Retire from NIH

Feb. 1 was a special day for Virginia and Bill Holcomb, who both retired from NIH.

Virginia completed 20 years with the Clinical Center's clinical pathology department as a medical technologist. During this time, she worked in the clinical chemistry service, the hematology service, the immunology service laboratories, and most recently the office of the chief, where she had been doing property management and inventory. She served on the department's safety committee for a number of years, conducted presentations at local high schools, and conducted laboratory tours and laboratory recruitment for medical technologists. Over the years, Virginia received many awards for "efforts to provide excellent care and high quality performance." Her most rewarding moments involved working with computers and learning how versatile they are.

The Holcombs will remain in Maryland to be near their two sons.

She received a B.S. in biology and a B.S. in medical technology from Idaho State University and is also a registered medical technologist. She also holds a teaching certificate for the state of Idaho. In 1981, she participated in a 1-year graduate studies project, "Women-In-Science Program in Toxicology," at American University.

Bill completed 26 years with the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, 13 of which were at NIH during two separate tours. Since 1990, he had been radiation safety training officer. He was honored for outstanding achievement and exceptional service for the training portion of the radiation safety program. During his tenure, more than 2,000 courses were conducted and more than 56,000 people attended radiation safety classes under Holcomb's direction. He also received many honors for producing outstanding radiation safety training videotapes. Two of the honors included awards from the 17th International Film Festival on Organization, New Technologies, Automation of Production and Management in Sofia, Bulgaria, and from the 20th International Festival of Professional Films, TV, Video Programmes, in Zilina, Slovak Republic.

Bill received a B.S. in chemical engineering from New Mexico State University and an M.S. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Idaho and is also a registered professional chemical engineer in the state of Idaho.

Since joining the PHS, he distinguished himself in both government regulatory activities and in radiation safety training. During his PHS career, he spent 13 years with the Environmental Protection Agency, where he worked on criteria for the management and disposal of low-level and high-level radioactive wastes. He was known throughout government and the nuclear industry as an expert in management and disposal of radioactive wastes, having served as the U. S. representative to international radiation conferences in Paris and Vienna, and having presented many workshops, short courses and symposia.

Prior to his PHS activities, he worked in the areas of reactor fuel reprocessing, fuel fabrication, radioactive waste management, and reactor support with Argonne National Laboratory; Aerojet-General Corp.; the Nevada Test Site; and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. He wrote more 100 papers, articles and book chapters relevant to his activities.

The Holcombs will remain in Maryland to be near their two sons, Craig who is an attorney and Eric who is an historic preservation planner for the city of Baltimore. They will miss the daily contact with colleagues and friends, but will be able to concentrate on new interests and do some traveling.

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