August 29, 2012  

A toast to Dean Lawley


Wright Caughman and Thomas Lawley  

At the retirement reception for Dean Thomas Lawley last Thursday evening, host and EVPHA Wright Caughman raised a glass in toast to the man who recruited to Emory all but one of the current department chairs in the medical school as well as the EVPHA himself.

A standing-room-only crowd of well-wishers joined the toast, and a succession of speakers, starting with President Wagner, listed Lawley's accomplishments as leader of the school over the past 16 years. "When he became dean, Tom described the school as a 'sleeping giant' that was just beginning to wake up to how good it could be," said Wagner. "You woke the giant," he told Lawley, "and moved it beyond good to great, and all of Emory is grateful."

Lawley first came to Emory in 1988 as chair of dermatology and took a department with virtually zero research funding to one ranked third in NIH funding in the nation. His accomplishments in dermatology did not go unnoticed, and he was named dean in 1996. Since that time, the medical school added more than 1 million square feet of new space, supporting a sponsored research base that has grown fivefold during his tenure. The overall size of the faculty doubled, and six new departments were created. And he presided simultaneously over the design of both a new curriculum and a new building. (See the cover story of the fall Emory Medicine magazine for more details about his accomplishments at Emory and in academic medicine in general.)

Presenters Bob Swerlick (chair of dermatology), Bill Eley (education dean), and Barbara Schroeder (dean of fiscal affairs) presented Lawley, respectively, with a professorship and scholarship named in his honor and a podium for the medical school. Caughman presented Lawley and his wife Chris with Braves baseball jerseys (a nod to the dean's youthful desire to pursue baseball as a career) and unveiled a portrait of the dean.

In his own remarks, Lawley noted that he was the first in his family to go to college, that his father was a policeman and his grandfather a firefighter. He remembered advice he received as a young boy from his elderly grandmother not long before she died: "Get an indoor job," she cautioned. He had hoped early on simply to be a practicing dermatologist in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., a wild enough stretch of the imagination, and never dreamed he would one day do research, chair a department, or become dean of a medical school. 

Baseball may have lost out because Lawley took his grandmother's advice, but those who work with him would agree that Emory and medicine are better off for his choice.

In addition to those below, view other photos from the reception.

lawley-correll shirts lawley-williams
With Pete and Ada Lee Correll

  Tom and Chris, on the same team   With James B. Williams and Ben Johnson