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Vol. LXV, No. 8
April 12, 2013
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Stokes’ Portrait Unveiled at Bldg. 50 Ceremony

Former Rep. Louis Stokes (l) and his wife Jay pose with NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at the portrait unveiling.

Former Rep. Louis Stokes (l) and his wife Jay pose with NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at the portrait unveiling.

Photos: Ernie Branson

There will henceforth be a sense that the boss is looking over NIH officials’ shoulders as the Louis Stokes Laboratories (Bldg. 50) gained a portrait of its namesake during a brief ceremony Mar. 22 in the building lobby, where the near-lifesize image will greet all who enter.

Known, during his 30-year career as a congressman from Ohio, as a persistent and emphatic champion of extending the benefits of biomedical research to all people, especially populations suffering health disparities, Stokes was in a kindly mood at the unveiling.

“I want you to be a part of everything me and my family feel about this day,” he told a small gathering that included NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and a number of institute and center directors, as well as hosts from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, who sponsored the occasion. “This is one of the most memorable and beautiful days of my life.”

Prior to Stokes’ remarks, Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, made light-hearted but pointed mention of Stokes’ insistence that NIH make health disparities a research priority. Ruffin explained that Stokes, who served on the committee overseeing NIH’s budget, was known to become impatient with NIH testimony on Capitol Hill. It could be a tad too “eloquent”—whether spoken or written—when it came to disparities; Stokes simply wanted his questions answered.

Admiring the new portrait are (from l) Stokes, NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin and Collins.

Admiring the new portrait are (from l) Stokes, NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin and Collins.

“Mr. Stokes is all about the bottom line,” Ruffin said, “and this portrait is the bottom line—a symbol of how we feel about you.” He called Stokes “the people’s congressman,” and said the portrait symbolizes the barriers Stokes overcame. “It is a signal that his legacy will ever be alive…a reminder that if you stay committed to that which you believe and refuse to take no for an answer, you can succeed.”

Stokes chats with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci (c) and NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman.

Stokes chats with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci (c) and NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman.

“It is indeed a pleasure to be able to have you back with us,” said Collins. “We are honored and delighted that you are here…and we greatly respect what you have done for NIH.”

Collins noted that his own laboratory is on the building’s fifth floor, so he will often be reminded of Stokes’ legacy. NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus also has a lab in Bldg. 50 and sent word that “we miss having [Stokes] on the Hill.”

Dr. Maria Freire, president of FNIH, called Stokes “a champion of biomedical research” and called his likeness “striking and wonderful… [Stokes] has provided hope for the future of science, and for the work reflected in this building.”

The building was dedicated in June 2001, at which time a commemorative plaque was installed. The portrait of Stokes, originally unveiled at last December’s health disparities summit, was completed by Robert Hartshorn.—Rich McManus


Gallery

Enjoying a light moment at the Mar. 22 unveiling are (from l) NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, NINDS director Dr. Story Landis, Stokes’ wife of 53 years Jay and former Rep. Louis Stokes and NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin.
Dr. Maria Freire, president of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, called Stokes’  likeness “striking and wonderful.”
Frank Kutlak (l), who directed the construction of the Louis Stokes Laboratories Building, poses with Stokes at the unveiling.
NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg chats with Stokes at the ceremony.
NIH alumnus Ludlow McKay (l), who left NIH in 1999 and then worked at HRSA, was credited by Stokes with working through FNIH to get the Stokes portrait accomplished.
Collaborating on the actual unveiling of the portrait are (from l) Stokes, NIMHD director Dr. John Ruffin, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and Freire.
Ruffin joked that not all of NIH’s institute and center directors were present at the Mar. 22 event for fear of Stokes’ legendary tough questioning when he was on Capitol Hill.

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