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Dorian Coppenhaver

March 01, 2005 11:40 AM

40 years? Seems impossible! After leaving WPHS I attended college at Duke University where I majored in Zoology after thinking seriously about History and Music. College was eventful, but not atypical. I became a dedicated basketball fan (surprised?), played in the symphony, had a radio show and did most of the stuff college students are supposed to do. Graduated in 1969 - the last class of the turbulent 60s. I decided to go to graduate school and remained at Duke, where I got a PhD in biochemical & evolutionary genetics in our centennial year. The last few years of that time I was living and working in New York where my mentor had moved to NYU. Life in Greenwich Village was a tad different from OUR Park Avenue! While there I got married (1974) to a fellow Duke graduate student - Anne Powers - who finished her doctorate a year after me.

After graduating for the third and last time I began a postdoctoral experience. To the astonishment of everyone who knew me, I went to Kenya for a year doing a genetic survey of baboons with a colleague from Duke; which means I was on safari for a year trapping the beasts and taking samples. Being on safari for that long means you have a lot of time to fill. I dabbled in photography, birding, tracking, reading, writing and became passable in Swahili. My office today is decorated with some of the pictures I took back then.

Returning to the states I accepted another postdoctoral position, this time at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. That was 27 years ago, and I'm still here. I've enjoyed a fairly typical academic career, with the normal number of twists and turns. Recruited to do protein chemistry and evolutionary studies, I eventually switched departments and did work in antivirals, immunomodulation and aging. I've published (100-odd articles, chapters, books, patents, and reports), taught (medical students, graduate students and allied health students - sometimes about things I barely understood), traveled (often on the governments nickel!), and served on more committees than I care to remember. I few years back I closed my lab and became a full time Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences here, where I am responsible for student affairs, admissions, curricular matters and administration. I've founds that constant interaction with active intelligent graduate students either exhausts you or keeps you young. I'm banking on the latter.

At home, Anne and I have celebrated 31 years together. She has been a high school principal and now is on the faculty at the University of Houston - Clear Lake. Ask us about two career couples! We don't have children, but have had two wonderful exchange students, a Dutch son and a German daughter, with whom we are very close, and who provide a great excuse to run to Europe. (Got to see those grandkids!) I've remained active in music, with a string quartet (we'll play your anniversary party if you pay enough!), membership in the local symphony (where I was principal viola for a dozen or so years before stepping down due to work commitments) and choir director at our church.

I still get to Winter Park to visit my mom every year. Plus, my younger brother and his family live in Oviedo. So when I am in town, I hope to run into some of you.