By Christina Crowe

On Thursday, November 2, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees voted to approve the appointment of Casey Weaver, M.D., to the Leonard H. Robinson Endowed Chair in Pathology.

In 2023, Weaver was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors an American scientist can be awarded. For 30 years, Weaver has studied T cells, one of the important white blood cells of the immune system in their role to protect the body from infection and cancer. He has published more than 180 peer-reviewed papers in outstanding high-impact and prestigious journals, including Science, Nature, Cell, Nature Immunology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Science Immunology, Nature Medicine and eLife, and he is an author of Janeway’s Immunobiology, one of the leading immunology textbooks.

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Three decades ago, Weaver came to UAB from Washington University in St. Louis, where he received immunology training during his residency in pathology. He runs a lab with about 20 researchers at any given time—many of whom stay with him for years—and has mentored many predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees. He has maintained continuous funding from the NIH, as well as other funding agencies over this time.

“It is a tremendous honor to be named to the Robinson Chair, as I knew and revered Dr. Robinson as an exemplary academic physician and teacher of the highest integrity and humanism,” Weaver says. “He was a kind, compassionate, positive person and an important role model.”

Weaver also emphasizes the importance of this endowment being created through the efforts of former chair Jay McDonald, M.D., to honor Dr. Robinson’s contributions to the department.

“Dr. McDonald recruited me to UAB and strongly supported my development,” Weaver says. “It is bittersweet that my group and I continue to be beneficiaries of his tireless efforts to build and sustain UAB Pathology. We are grateful to Drs. Robinson and McDonald and will honor their legacies through the opportunities that will be realized through this support.”

The Robinson chair was originally created in 1989 by the Department of Pathology to recognize Dr. Leonard H. Robinson for his outstanding service as a teacher and administrator. Robinson was a native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who earned his A.B. degree from Brown University in 1937 and his D.M.D. degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1943 before beginning an internship at Worcester City Hospital. This was interrupted by military service from July 1934 to August 1945. Robinson then returned to Tufts to receive a Master of Science degree in 1949 before accepting an invitation from Joseph Volker to join the University of Alabama School of Dentistry faculty as an assistant professor.

Robinson established teaching programs in oral pathology in the School of Dentistry while attending the School of Medicine, from which he graduated with an M.D. in 1954. He went on to complete residencies in medicine and anatomic pathology, then was named professor and director of the Division of Oral Pathology at UAB, also serving as staff pathologist in the Department of Pathology’s Division of Surgical pathology until 1970. Robinson left UAB briefly, but returned in 1974 as an associate dean and professor of dentistry and pathology. He then served as dean of the School of Dentistry from 1978 to 1987, when he became Professor Emeritus. Robinson received numerous awards and honors including the 1985 Distinguished Lecturer Award—the highest honor given to UAB Medical Center faculty members by their colleagues.

After his arrival at UAB, Weaver worked his way up from assistant to full professor in nine years, and was named to the Wyatt and Susan Haskell Endowed Professorship in Pathology in 2007. In the ensuring years, the endowment was elevated to a chair. The department remains very grateful to the Haskell family for their creation of the endowment and their ongoing support.

“We are so fortunate to have these endowments named for great legends of pathology in our department,” says Gene P. Siegal, M.D., Ph.D., Interim Chair, UAB Pathology. “To have the ability to assign them to a pathologist at the level of Dr. Weaver is an honor that reflects on the history of excellence fostered here at UAB.”