UABSO In the News
UAB School of Optometry dedicating plaza to mother of supporter
The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry has dedicated its outdoor plaza to Frances Lee Hire, mother of Don M. Hire, a longtime supporter of UAB along with his wife, Marsha H. Hire.
“We are lucky to have people like Don and Marsha Hire support the UAB School of Optometry, and we are very grateful for their ongoing support,” said Rod W. Nowakowski, O.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Optometry. “Don has served loyally on our Dean’s Community Advisory Committee, and their gift made the renovation of the plaza surrounding the school possible.”
Nowakowski says the beautification of the plaza includes new plants, tables, chairs, umbrellas and re-surfacing.
“This has opened pleasant new areas for Optometry faculty, staff and students to enjoy outside our building, and they are taking full advantage of it on a daily basis,” Nowakowski said. “This makes our school much more appealing and competitive for prospective students when they visit prior to deciding where they want to attend optometry school.”
Funding for the updates came from a $200,000 charitable trust that the Hires gave to the school.
“After our parents were deceased, we made the decision to give to the School of Optometry because of the sight problems in Alabama and because former professor and Optometry Dean John F. Amos, O.D., was a personal friend,” Don Hire said. “We wanted to help people and help somebody we liked.
“My mom always loved flowers, plants and being outdoors,” he added. “So when Dr. Nowakowski called and said they wanted to use the money from the trust to fund having their portion of the plaza redone, it was appropriate and something my mom would have been very happy with because of the enhanced ability of staff and students to be outside and enjoy the world.”
Hire says he and his wife try to support UAB in multiple ways, in both academics and athletics.
“Our parents taught us if you do well you’re supposed to give back to others, and this is a portion of our doing what we were taught to do,” Hire said.
UAB commencement scheduled for Dec. 14
The UAB Graduate School doctoral hooding ceremony will be held at noon in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. South. The university’s highest degree will be conferred on 208 candidates with about 80 attending the ceremony. The guest speaker will be Charles Amsler, Ph.D., professor of Biology in the College of Arts of Sciences.
More than 800 students will walk in UAB’s fall commencement ceremonies, which will take place at 9:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Bartow Arena, 617 13th St. South. At least 2,354 students are expected to graduate this semester.
Sergio Stagno, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine will be awarded the President’s Medal during the commencement ceremony. Stagno has been a world leader in combating pediatric infectious diseases, serving on the executive committee of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and on several National Institutes of Health study sections and advisory councils. His research has focused on cytomegalovirus, especially regarding infection acquired during pregnancy and the consequences of the disease for children. Through the Child Health Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization directed by Stagno, he has provided funding for the establishment of three Centers of Excellence in Chile and promoted the exchange of pediatricians in training between these universities and UAB.
The mace carrier for both ceremonies will be John Kearney, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Microbiology. Kearney was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award, which is the academic medical center’s highest faculty honor. He joined the faculty in 1977 and has continued his studies on B cell differentiation.
During the 9:15 a.m. ceremony, Swapna Kakani will give the undergraduate address and Kimberly Snow will speak on behalf of the graduate students.
Kakani will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. She is a member of the Science and Technology Honors Program, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, Psi Chi Honors Society and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She received the Aaron Lamar Jr. Scholarship and the 2013 Psychology Achievement Award. Kakani co-created a hands-on educational program for underserved students to teach them the importance of academic excellence, nutritional wellness, cultural awareness and social interaction. After graduation, she plans to advance the program, pursue an advanced degree in public health, and eventually work for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Snow will graduate with a Master of Science degree in elementary education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Jacksonville State University in 2002. She was awarded her Juris Doctorate from the Mississippi College School of Law in 2005. Snow has served as an associate attorney with Jim F. Oros Jr., P.C., since 2009. After graduation, she plans to teach at a local elementary school while practicing law part time and remaining active in the legal community.
During the 2 p.m. service, Ryan Densmore will give the undergraduate address and Kimberly Piazza will be the graduate speaker.
Densmore will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering. He served as a member of the Science and Technology Honors Program and Biomedical Engineering Honor Society. He has been on the Academic Dean’s List and UAB President’s List. Densmore has been an active student leader in many campus organizations as well as a strong volunteer for outside organizations. He has worked as a research assistant with a focus on cardiac arrhythmias for three years and has shadowed various physicians. Upon graduation, he plans to attend medical school, where he hopes to pursue a career as a primary care physician.
Piazza will receive a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in accounting. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from UAB in 2012. Piazza was the recipient of the License to Learn Scholarship and Transfer of Excellence Scholarship. She plans to pursue a career in public accounting and become a certified public accountant. Her long-term aspirations include pursuing a Ph.D. in accountancy so that she can teach accounting on the college level.
Pittler receives $1.4 million award for vision study
Steven Pittler, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Vision Sciences in the UAB School of Optometry, has received a four-year, $1.4 million National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute grant.
This work will focus on a protein that is unique to the eye and is required for sight. When the gene that encodes this protein is defective, it leads to the ocular disorder retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive hereditary form of blindness.
Pittler, who is also director of the Vision Science Research Center, will study the function of the protein to devise treatments for the disease. The grant is titled “Analysis of retina rod photoreceptor GARP and cGMP-gated channel.”
“This application seeks to identify fundamental properties of the genes’ encoded proteins that will provide essential information needed to develop a treatment, as there is no established treatment for this disease, which affects a significant portion of the United States and world populations,” Pittler said.
Pittler has shown in mice that he can replace a missing protein and restore structure and function of the light-absorbing cells in the retina.
Pittler also noted that it is becoming increasingly apparent that the gene on which his team is working also has essential function in the brain, in the nose, and possibly in reproduction, kidney and heart function, making the studies potentially relevant to a far greater number of people.
This is a continuation of a grant that began in 2007. The current award runs through Aug. 31, 2017.
$1 billion goal announced for UAB’s largest-ever fundraising campaign
The University of Alabama at Birmingham today officially kicked off the public phase of The Campaign for UAB: Give Something, Change Everything, the university’s largest fundraising campaign to date, announcing an ambitious $1 billion goal.
The campaign will run through 2018.
“The theme reflects the fact that, when you give to UAB, you help us change our community and our world for the better, whether by finding the cure for a disease, enabling a bright young person to go to college or lighting the spark for a new innovation,” UAB President Ray L. Watts said. “We are working hard to strengthen our position as one of the nation’s most productive and dynamic universities. To accomplish this goal, we are going to set our priorities, invest resources carefully and invite partners to join us.”
In September, during the silent phase of the campaign, the business school was named the UAB Collat School of Business for longtime supporters Charles and Patsy Collat in recognition of their lead gift to The Campaign for UAB — $25 million in gifts and pledges.
“I am so absolutely excited to be in a position with Patsy to make something like this happen that reaches into every program in the School of Business,” said Charles Collat, philanthropist and former CEO of Mayer Electric Supply Company Inc. “Being able to support an institution like UAB that plays such an important part in so many lives is something I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.”
According to UAB Vice President Shirley Salloway Kahn, the campaign will allow donors to choose what efforts their monies support.
“We are launching the public phase of the campaign with a TV spot that asks, ‘What do you want to change today?’” Kahn said. “That is a significant message because we want to help donors support what they are passionate about by connecting them with our people who share the same passion in the work they do. We really want to know specifically what YOU want to change and make it happen through the ongoing work at UAB. We also produced a video that goes into greater detail about the campaign and highlights the variety of ways in which our donors have changed and continue to change the world.”
For example, donors can:
- Fund scholarships that remove financial barriers to a UAB education
- Create endowments that attract faculty at the top of their fields
- Expand facilities to accommodate increasing enrollment and new or growing programs
- Invest in new technologies that support teaching, research and global outreach
- Underwrite efforts to commercialize discoveries
- Expand patient-care facilities to improve the health of residents
- Support arts and cultural programs that enrich our lives and strengthen the fabric of our community
Theresa Bruno, one of three distinguished co-chairs of The Campaign for UAB and president of THB Inc., is chair of the corporate board of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.
Mike Warren, Johnny Johns, Ray Watts, Theresa Bruno and Shirley Salloway Kahn“There are so many worthwhile efforts to support at UAB,” Bruno said. “The arts are dear to me, and being able to help UAB expose Birmingham to world-class programming has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I hope my work as a campaign co-chair will give others that opportunity.”
Campaign co-chair Mike Warren, president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama and former chair/CEO of Energen, has seen the benefits of supporting UAB health care initiatives.
“Partnering with UAB to improve patient care and support the discovery of new therapies and cures is rewarding to me personally and professionally,” Warren said. “I am so pleased to be a part of a campaign that will allow everyone to partner with UAB.”
Participation will also come from within; at least $35 million of the $1 billion goal is expected from UAB faculty and staff.
“I anticipate that the UAB family, who knows more than anyone the great contributions this institution makes to society, will step up in a big way,” Watts said. “We are not going to ask others to support something we do not ourselves support. Already, UAB Health Services Foundation physicians have provided a lead gift, kicking off our faculty and staff campaign with $2.5 million toward the purchase and development of a cutting-edge PET/MRI facility that will open up new opportunities in patient care and research.”
UAB’s previous philanthropic campaign took place between 1999 and 2003 and well exceeded its goal of $350 million, which at the time was the largest ever undertaken by an Alabama university. UAB raised $388.7 million.
“The $1 billion goal is an unprecedented figure for UAB,” said Kahn. “UAB is poised for transformational growth, and the money that is raised will help our faculty and staff continue their efforts to find new cures for diseases, educate students, and bring recognition to our city and state through their outstanding teaching, patient care, research and service.”
As president and chair of Protective Life Corporation, which has a more than 100-year history of business success and a rich tradition of philanthropy and community service, campaign co-chair Johnny Johns knows something about making a difference in the Birmingham region.
“By supporting UAB, not only do you support individual research, health care and academic initiatives, you expand the institution’s staggering positive impact on the economic development and community service that starts here and extends around the world,” Johns said.
As an economic engine with an impact exceeding $5 billion in Alabama annually, the implications of a successful UAB fundraising campaign are broad and far-reaching.
“The scope and impact of this campaign will extend far beyond our campus,” Watts said. “A successful fundraising effort of this scale will reap vastly improved health care, educational opportunities and quality of life, as well as robust economic development, throughout our community, state, nation and beyond. This will be a campaign with a truly global impact.”
To learn more about the “Give Something, Change Everything,” campaign, follow its progress or give, visit uab.edu/campaign.
Optometry students to hold fundraiser for World Sight Day at Taziki’s
Join UAB School of Optometry students at noon Thursday, Oct. 10, for a “Picnic for World Sight,” where guests can buy Taziki’s Cafe lunches with a drink for $5 on the plaza between the Henry Peters Building and Lister Hill Public Library. Baked goods will also be sold.
In addition to the meal and bake sale, there will be activities including a blindfolded taste test, and the winner of the 22nd annual Varilux Optometry Student Bowl, David Zimmerman, will be awarded his crystal trophy.
Money raised will go to Optometry Cares, a foundation of the American Optometric Association that works to expand eye health and vision care access to everyone in the United States.
This event is open to the public. The “Picnic for World Sight” is sponsored by Essilor.