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Olden Receives Honorary Doctorate
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences director Dr. Kenneth Olden was presented the honorary degree of doctor of science by the University of Rochester on May 18 at commencement ceremonies in Rochester, N.Y.
In a letter to Olden, university President Thomas H. Jackson said, "Your career at the National Institutes of Health and your dedication to cancer research are an inspiration to our graduates and the entire university community."
Born in poverty on an eastern Tennessee farm, Olden was the first African American to direct an NIH institute. He is also director of the National Toxicology Program, which coordinates toxicology studies within the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Olden is also an internationally recognized researcher in cancer biology as well as an innovator in environmental health sciences who 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.
In conferring the degree, university officials said, "There is no stronger advocate for funding genetic research than Olden." He oversaw the development of the Environmental Genome Project, which studies mankind's varying genetic susceptibility to the environment, as well as the National Center for Toxicogenomics, which applies genetic technology to the testing of toxic chemicals and to the study of environmentally related disease.
Jackson called the honorary doctorate from the University of Rochester especially appropriate because, although Olden earned his doctorate in 1970 at Temple University in Philadelphia, he actually "did much of the research at the University of Rochester."
Olden and his wife, Dr. Sandra L. White, and daughter, Heather, live in Durham, N.C., and he has three grown children.
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