For Joginder Nath, commitments are key.
Nath, a West Virginia University professor emeritus and long-time chair of the genetics and developmental biology program who retired in 2009, recently established the Nath Graduate Student Travel Award, which assists graduate students in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design by providing travel fund assistance to attend conferences, present papers, conduct research or travel to enhance their education. The college will make the award for the first time this spring.
“It’s really a personal thing,” Nath said. “When I was chair of the program, I used to go to national and international meetings every year and sometimes as many as five or 10 students would want to go but didn’t have the money for travel.”
Nath would solicit funds from the president’s office, his dean, former students and friends. When the money fell short, he used his own resources.
“Nothing stopped us, honestly, but that was a hard thing, having very little funding for travel,” Nath said. “So when I was thinking about what to support, it wasn’t a tough decision for me.”
Nath attended Panjab University in India, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s. He left India in his twenties to earn a doctorate in genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In the late ‘60s, he and two other professors were hired to start a genetics and developmental biology program at WVU.
“I was committed to this program because we were hired to create this program,” Nath said. “I have been committed to this program from its inception and the program became part of my life, really.”
WVU Davis College Dean Dan Robison has launched an effort to further develop the program Nath began and shepherded for many years, working collaboratively to do that with several other WVU colleges.
“There are so many parts to the legacy that Jo Nath continues to build at WVU, from the genetics and developmental biology program, to an endowed lecture in the Honors College, to support for the new Art Museum, to this new fantastic graduate student travel effort,” Robison said. “Jo and his wife, Charlotte, have and are making such a great positive difference at WVU – it’s astounding and an inspiration to us all.”
Nath has won many awards for his research and teaching, including the Hollaender Award from the Environmental Mutagen Society in 1997 for research in genetics and genetic toxicology. Nath has also been presented with the Outstanding Researcher Award and an Outstanding Teacher Award from WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, and the Environmental Mutagen Society Education Award in 2000. In 2002, his alma mater, Panjab University, presented him with the P.N. Mehra Memorial Award for an outstanding career in human genetics, toxicology and tumor cytogenetics.
The genetics and developmental biology program that Nath directed had numerous dedicated faculty members from participating departments all across WVU and from external institutions, and this made the program highly successful and dynamic. But for Nath, it was the students – who he has provided lifelong dedication to – that made the program a personal success.
Ask Nath where almost any one of the more than 135 students who passed through the program is today and he is likely to be able to tell you, and also let you know the last time they spoke. His students are scattered across the U.S. and world, working in pharmacology, genetics research, and some retired from exceptional careers.
Chuck Watson was Nath’s second graduate student in the genetics program in the 1970s.
“I don’t remember him actually answering any questions I had,” Watson said.
“He would come back with another question. He made me think things through that you would go to a professor to answer for you. He saw something in me that others didn’t. He encouraged me to get a doctorate, and I didn’t even think I could,” said Watson, who spent 21 years in the Army and 15 in pharmaceuticals before retiring in North Carolina. He and Nath talk regularly and have visited several times.
“And he still hasn’t answered any of my questions,” Watson said.
“Dr. Nath is the finest kind of academic – he cares equally deeply about the students, the science, and the institution that makes the two come together. He is an enabler and critical thinker,” Robison said.
“And although retired for a few years now, he continues to come to work all the time, to engage his colleagues in critical discussions, to push for excellence in all that we do, and to be a friend,” Robison added.
Nath’s generosity is spread throughout the university and Morgantown communities. In 2008, Nath made a significant contribution to the Art Museum of WVU creating a sculpture garden and courtyard area that will be named in his honor. The Joginder Nath Sculpture Garden and Courtyard will feature an outdoor exhibit area. And in 2013, Nath provided funding for the construction of the WVU art museum.
Nath also serves as member of the WVU Davis College’s and the WVU Eye Institute’s Comprehensive Campaign Committees, assisting with helping to raise funds for the A State of Minds Comprehensive Campaign and as a volunteer with the Friends of the Art Museum of WVU. He has also donated to local arts projects and hospitals in the region.
Giving back is just another part of Nath’s commitment.
“That’s just a normal thing in life. One shouldn’t be just taking things,” Nath said. “At the right stage in your life, you should give back, because otherwise, if most people decided not to do it, how can these important things get done.”
Nath’s contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign is being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the university and runs through December 2015.
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