Cameron Vowell

In 1971, I was in graduate school getting my Ph.D. in biochemistry. I was working on a Saturday because I had a long-running experiment, and I think I might have slept in my clothes the night before. My lab was in the Lyons-Harrison Research Building, which intersects with the School of Dentistry building, so I headed over to the lobby of the dental school for a drink and a candy bar from the vending machines.

I was barefoot, had on an old, worn-out lab coat, and I looked like hell. And lo and behold, there in the lobby, dressed in a suit and bowtie, was Dr. Joseph Volker, UAB’s first president and the former head of the dental school.

He looked at me like he ought to be giving me quarters in a bucket. He paid for my drink and my snack, then said, ‘Please tell your mother and father you need a new lab coat.’ He was teasing me! My family knew him well, and he was very understanding.

—Cameron Vowell, Ph.D., earned her doctorate from UAB in 1974. She is now an adjunct professor in environmental health sciences at UAB. Vowell, known for her work advocating for women, the elderly, and environmental protection, has pledged $1 million to establish an endowed chair for LGBTQ health studies in the School of Public Health.

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