An Extraordinary Career

Joshua Brumberg, associate professor of neurobiology at Queens College, hoods Leo Chalupa, as James Muyskens, president of the college, looks on. Photo credit: Nancy Bareis/Queens College.
June 10, 2011

GW Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa earns an honorary doctorate of science from his alma mater Queens College.

At 9 a.m. on June 2, commencement ceremonies began on Queens College’s Jefferson Quadrangle, located at the center of its campus in Flushing, N.Y. As 2,500 degree candidates and about 7,500 guests looked on, Leo Chalupa, vice president for research at GW, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science.

A college statement announcing the commencement speaker and honorary degree awardees said Dr. Chalupa is well-regarded for his research on the retina and the development of vision.

In an interview with GW Today, James Muyskens, president of Queens College, said Dr. Chalupa has made his mark on the world by challenging conventional wisdom about how visual systems work.

“Dr. Chalupa’s accomplishments reflect much of what we ask of our students—in particular, this year’s graduates,” Dr. Muyskens said. “As we send our graduates out into today’s world, we ask them to be ever mindful of the college’s motto, ‘We learn so that we may serve,’ something Dr. Chalupa has embodied and upheld throughout his extraordinary career.”

Dr. Chalupa earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Queens College, but Susan A. Rotenberg, chair of the Queens College subcommittee on honorary degrees, said the college does not require that honorary degree recipients be alumni, though most have some connection to the college.

According to Dr. Rotenberg, who is also a professor of biochemistry, honorary doctoral recipients are chosen from a pool of candidates nominated by faculty and administrators at the college. The subcommittee that Dr. Rotenberg chairs, which is made up of representatives from each academic division at Queens – arts and humanities, social sciences, mathematical and natural sciences and education – reviews each nominee’s biography.

“A criterion for selection is first and foremost that the individual has produced a body of work over a lengthy career that is highly regarded and has gained widespread recognition in the world,” she said. “Dr. Chalupa is a world-renowned neuroscientist whose extensive work on the retina and development of the visual system challenged pre-existing dogma.”

Asked what it felt like to receive such recognition from his alma mater, Dr. Chalupa said, “I was surprised, pleased and honored.”

Larry Liebovitch, dean of math and natural sciences at Queens College, echoed a statement of Dr. Chalupa’s at commencement, “If you can succeed at Queens College, you can succeed anywhere.”

“I think that’s been demonstrated in his career,” Dr. Liebovitch said.

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