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NIH Record Retirees

NICHD Executive Officer Ben Fulton Retires

By Robert Bock

In 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the words "bell bottom" appeared in the dictionary, the first heart transplant was performed, and a heart of gold came to work for NICHD.

After 32 years of distinguished service, NICHD Executive Officer Benjamin E. Fulton has retired from the institute. Through the years, he served NICHD in a number of capacities. His service to the NIH community has also been considerable: He was active in the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association and was twice elected president, he has donated blood regularly since 1967, and was inducted to the department of transfusion medicine's Ten Gallon Club. Fulton has also played a leadership role in the NIH Golf Association.

Benjamin E. Fulton

"As executive officer, Ben managed the institute's administrative affairs with resilience, efficiency and style," said NICHD director Dr. Duane Alexander. "I really hate to see him leave — we'll have a difficult time without him."

A native of southwestern Virginia, Fulton graduated from the University of Virginia and attended law school there before entering the Army in 1961. After leaving the service, he worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, first as an inspector, and then as an administrative assistant.

"NICHD was only 3 years old when I started," Fulton said. "It was really exciting to come to a new institute with such a diverse mission — research in growth and development, mental retardation and reproduction."

Fulton began his NICHD career as a personnel management specialist in what was then the combined personnel office for NICHD and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness. In 1968, he undertook a series of administrative officer training assignments within the institute, and then became administrative officer for NICHD's Center for Population Research. He held this position until 1980, when he became AO for the office of the director of NICHD. He became NICHD's deputy executive officer in 1980, and was appointed executive officer in 1995.

Fulton said his most rewarding experience at NICHD was when he administered the institute's program to test an improved typhoid vaccine in Nepal. Typhoid fever is common in countries with poor sanitation. While other typhoid vaccines are available, they require either multiple oral doses or injections, frequently cause side effects, and are not as effective as the NICHD vaccine. Along with the other members of the NICHD group who worked to develop and test the vaccine, Fulton received the 1988 Public Health Service Special Recognition Group Award for this achievement.

"This vaccine has the potential to eliminate typhoid fever," Fulton said. "It was extremely gratifying to help administer the program that proved its effectiveness."

From 1996 to 1999, Fulton served on NIH's administrative training committee, the administrative body responsible for the NIH Management Intern and Presidential Management Intern Programs. During his tenure, he provided advice and guidance to several classes of interns. He is highly regarded for his thorough knowledge of NIH, his steady, consistent support of the interns and programs, and his cheerful demeanor.

"It was really nice to have worked with Ben in the Management Intern Program," said program graduate Baldwin Wong. "In the beginning, especially, his easy, outgoing manner put us all at ease, and made introductions a lot less formal for everyone."

In addition to his administrative abilities, Fulton is also renowned for his theatrical skills. He has long been active in the Bethesda Little Theatre Group, frequently serving as master of ceremonies for the annual NIH Holiday show. Through the years, at NICHD holiday parties and other functions, Fulton has frequently starred as master of ceremonies and leading man for countless events and skits.

"Ben would come over to the 6100 Building in his star-spangled tux to lead everyone in holiday carols each year," said colleague Marie Bristol Power. "His presence from Bldg. 31, his great singing voice, and his classy bonhomie were greatly appreciated."

Upon retirement, Fulton said his most ambitious project would be to clean out his basement. NICHD staffers who have been in contact with him since then say he has been as active in retirement as he was at work. He manages a men's soccer team, is active in his church choir, takes part in his golfing club events and auditions for parts with local theater groups.

"It's taken me no time at all to get used to not working," he said.

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