Ohio Wesleyan’s Expanded Neuroscience Program Named to Honor David Robbins

Students to more aggressively explore medicine’s “last frontier”

Pictured here (left to right): OWU President Rock Jones, George Conrades ’61, Dr. David Robbins, and his wife, Jan. This photo was taken during the most recent meeting of Ohio Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, during which time plans for the David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program were unveiled. (Photo by Sara Tincher)

Ohio Wesleyan’s neuroscience program which was founded in 1994, has been named to honor a distinguished OWU professor  and  Ohio Wesleyan’s provost since 2005, David Robbins. The program, now called the David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program, recognizes his many accomplishments since joining OWU’s faculty in 1973. Enhancements to the program are being supported with a five-year, $5 million gift from Ohio Wesleyan graduates George H. ’61 and Patsy Belt ’63 Conrades.

During Robbins’ nearly 40-year tenure at Ohio Wesleyan, he has served as provost,  as a professor in the Department of Psychology, a co-director and founder of  OWU’s neuroscience program, an advisor for the Pre-Optometry Program, director of the Summer Science Research Program, and as interim president.

Plans to enhance The David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program include adding three faculty members who will contribute to the program and expanding learning and research opportunities for those students who have an interest in neuroscience.

“With this gift, Ohio Wesleyan has the opportunity to develop one of the nation’s strongest undergraduate majors in neuroscience,” says OWU President Rock Jones. “Our neuroscience majors will have the advantage of a liberal arts education with hands-on research opportunities not widely available at the undergraduate level. We also want to provide even more opportunities for our students to attend and present original research findings at professional meetings.” Already, these professional opportunities have included Ohio Wesleyan hosting the first and second-annual meetings of the Midwest/Great Lakes Undergraduate Research Symposium in Neuroscience in 2009 and 2010. And as OWU psychology professor and director of the neuroscience program Jennifer Yates observes, there has been astronomical growth in recent years within the neuroscience field.

“More than 500 people attended the 1971 meeting of the Society of Neuroscience, and 35,000 participated in the most recent meeting,” she says. “There is a lot to learn and understand about the brain.” As Yates explains, the field of neuroscience includes focusing from the smallest aspect of the brain like how neurons signal each other, to how the activity of the brain controls behavior, both normal and disordered.

Both Yates and Chuck Stinemetz, OWU’s dean of academic affairs, emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience—tagged as medicine’s “last frontier”—which involves chemists, physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, biologists, and psychologists, for starters.

“In addition to further strengthening the natural sciences at OWU and providing support allowing neuroscience to become a nationally recognized program, George and Patsy Conrades want to promote the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of the neuroscience program,” says Stinemetz, adding the Conrades’ wish also to recognize Robbins’ long-term service to OWU and his role in founding that program.

“David Robbins is a man of vision, integrity, and compassion,” says George Conrades, who majored in physics and mathematics at OWU. “Patsy and I are pleased to honor him and to support the expansion of Ohio Wesleyan’s neuroscience program. We believe this field will lead to some of medicine’s greatest advances, and we believe Ohio Wesleyan graduates will help lead this revolution.”

While the Conrades’ gift was announced earlier, they collaborated more recently with the University to recognize Robbins.

“I am honored and touched by George and Patsy’s generous gesture,” says Robbins. “They are wonderful friends to me and to the University, and I think this gift is a reflection of the strength of the relationships that are built between faculty members, students, alumni, and colleagues here at Ohio Wesleyan. In my case, Harry Bahrick was my inspiration and mentor, and if you ask OWU alumni, they will also be able to point out similar relationships that created lasting bonds to Ohio Wesleyan. Because of these relationships, Ohio Wesleyan has changed my life for the better, and I am eternally grateful. This is a very special place.”

Jones salutes the fact that David Robbins has been a member of the University family for close to 40 years, as well as his service to OWU as a distinguished faculty member, provost, and interim president.

“Having  his name on our program is a kind of ‘seal of approval’ indicating its caliber and rigor.”

You can learn more about the David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program at Ohio Wesleyan University by visiting neuroscience.owu.edu.

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