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CSR's Jakubczak Retires After 36 Years of Federal Service

By Don Luckett

"From peasant to Ph.D." Dr. Leonard Jakubczak marvels at the life, which began in a community of Polish immigrants in Buffalo, N.Y. His parents didn't have a lot of money, but they had a lot of determination. "You're going to college," they said, and his fate was sealed.

He has many memories to recall, now that he has retired from the Center for Scientific Review after 36 years of government service. At CSR, he was scientific review administrator of the visual sciences B study section.

Dr. Leonard Jakubczak

"I'm retiring for health reasons," he explains with surprising spunk. "I'm healthy, and I want to enjoy the rest of my life!" It's not that he hasn't enjoyed his career. He is just embracing the next stage of life as he has all the others. Jakubczak enters this stage with some insight, since he conducted and coordinated research on the psychophysiology of aging for many years.

His interest in psychology was developed at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, where he received his bachelor's degree before earning his master's in psychology from the University of Toronto. Ironically, it was his interest in a young woman that helped focus his career on gerontology. While in St. Louis visiting the girlfriend who later became his wife, he learned that Washington University had just received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to launch the first graduate program on the psychology of aging. Jakubczak seized the opportunity to join the pioneers in this new field of research. He studied the effects of aging and hormones on behavior and received his Ph.D. there in 1962.

He then accepted a Public Health Service post-doctoral fellowship and worked in the section on aging within the Laboratory of Psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health. After studying thermal regulation and aging for 3 years, he moved to the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Louis, where he headed the Gerontological Psychology Research Laboratory and directed research on the influence of aging on the regulation of food intake and activity levels. During his 13 years there, he also was a lecturer and research associate in gerontology in Washington University's department of psychology. He eventually became an adjunct professor of psychology there. He held similar appointments at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

His career came to a crossroads in 1978 as he contemplated the next stage in his life. After a productive period of conducting his own research, he became interested in research administration where he could nurture the research efforts of others. Jakubczak jumped at the opportunity to enter the year-long NIH Grants Associate Program. He spent the next 10 years at the National Institute on Aging, where he oversaw portfolios of extramural grants for the Cognitive and Biopsychology of Aging Program and later for the Neuropsychology of Aging Program. To broaden his administrative skills and further apply his expertise in neuro-anatomy and neurophysiology, Jakubczak took charge of CSR's visual sciences B study section in 1989. This group reviews grant applications related to the visual central nervous system.

In addition to helping scientists advance their research, Jakubczak will be remembered by many NIH'ers as the one who helped them in Toastmasters when he served as president of the NIH club and later as the area governor and district lieutenant governor of the organization.

He recently explained how he was drawn to the next stage in life: integration. He has developed an interest in genealogy and wants to continue exploring the many branches of his family tree. In retirement, he plans to study Russian so he can conduct further research for writing a partial history of his family. Otherwise, he will not make a retirement task list. He notes that "being is more important than doing" in this stage of life, and he cannot wait to be more free from what psychoanalyst Karen Horney calls the "tyranny of the shoulds." From his study of aging, however, he knows the challenges and risks ahead. Still, he looks forward to being "more of a freelancer in life and giving this new stage a try." It's hard to imagine a better way to go.


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