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NINDS's Eugene Streicher Retires

By Shannon E. Garnett

Dr. Eugene Streicher, codirector of NINDS' Division of Fundamental Neurosciences and Developmental Disorders (DFNDD), recently retired after 46 years of government service, 43 of those with NIH.

Dr. Eugene Streicher

"Gene Streicher represents the very best of NIH," said NINDS director Dr. Zach Hall. "When I was a young investigator and had grant trouble, someone said to me 'Call Gene Streicher, he will help you.' And he did. That story -- multiplied a hundred times -- explains Gene Streicher's impact on neuroscience research, and the remarkable esteem in which he is held by several generations of neuroscientists."

A native of Brooklyn, Streicher earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Cornell University in 1947 and 1948 respectively, and his Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Chicago in 1953.

His government career began with military service in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. In 1948 he served in the medical division of the Army Chemical Corps as a physiologist. He began his NIH career in 1954 as an NIMH research physiologist, later joining NINDB (now NINDS) in 1962. There, he served first in the clinical neuropathology section of the intramural program and since 1964 in the extramural program. He was appointed director of the Division of Fundamental Neurosciences (now DFNDD) in 1979.

"The scope of the effect that Gene has had on basic neuroscience research as well as clinical neuroscience research is immeasurable," said Dr. Don Jewett, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, in an open letter to the institute. Streicher's division supported Jewett's work on the basic physiology of the auditory pathway of the brainstem, which has led to improvements in testing hearing in infants. Streicher also lent early support to the Neural Prosthesis Program, which has helped individuals with paralysis and sensory impairments.

"The outstanding basic neuroscience that he fostered led to wonderful advances in clinical neuroscience," said Dr. Charlotte McCutchen, NINDS medical officer and health scientist

administrator. In his most recent position as DFNDD codirector, he led a program of research grants, contracts and fellowships that supports basic research in fundamental, cellular, molecular and systems neuroscience and in basic disciplines such as neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, developmental neurobiology and neurogenetics.

"As division director in both tough times and good times, Gene has provided a steady and fair hand in guiding the development of NINDS extramural support in the fundamental neurosciences," said Dr. Robert Baughman, DFNDD acting director. "His integrity, thoughtfulness, lively sense of humor, and above all his kindness and supportiveness, especially for young investigators, are legendary. Over the years his list of grantees is a who's who of the founders and bright young stars of neuroscience."

Streicher has memberships in many professional societies including the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Neuropathologists, and the Society for Neuroscience.

Among the many honors and achievements he has garnered throughout his career, Streicher recently received the annual Education Award of the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs for his outstanding contributions as a mentor, advising and developing the careers of neuroscientists, and as a representative of institutions that help advance neuroscience research.

"He is a quiet man who does things in a quiet way, but with a tremendous impact," McCutchen said.

In fact, if it had been left up to Streicher, he would have retired quietly as well, with no fanfare. However, that was not to be. Friends, family, grantees -- past and present -- and colleagues made up the standing-room-only-crowd in a conference room of the Federal Bldg. recently to pay tribute to "probably one of the most loved people in the institute," according to McCutchen, who has worked with Streicher for 6 years. "The room was filled with love and laughter as we shared memories of working with Gene. He is a wonderful man -- a rare breed."

Streicher's immediate retirement plans include traveling with his wife to Montana and China.

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