The School of Medicine has established an endowed professorship to honor the memory of the late Carolyn Walch Slayman, Ph.D., a distinguished scientist and visionary academic leader who graced the School of Medicine with her inimitable presence for almost 50 years. At the time of her death at age 79 in December 2016, Slayman was deputy dean for academic and scientific affairs, Sterling Professor of Genetics, and professor of cellular and molecular physiology.
“We continue to feel Carolyn’s absence, and her influence will be with us for many years to come,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “I am delighted that this professorship has been created to honor her legacy.”
Slayman joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1967 as an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Microbiology. After spending her initial years at Yale as a bench scientist, she went on to assume administrative responsibilities through which she influenced scores of students, trainees, and colleagues, and kept the School of Medicine at the forefront in countless areas. She was a trailblazer on many fronts. When named chair of the Department of Human Genetics (now Genetics) in 1984, she became the first woman to head a department at Yale School of Medicine. In 1995, she became the school’s first deputy dean for academic and scientific affairs, and the first woman to hold a deputy deanship. Shortly after her appointment as deputy dean she said that her job was to be a catalyst, bringing people together to foster active discussion that would guide the school. By all accounts, she succeeded admirably in this endeavor. Many sought her counsel, benefiting from her wise judgment and enthusiastic leadership.
The $3 million endowment to create the Carolyn Walch Slayman, Ph.D., Professorship came to be thanks to the generosity of Dan Adams, executive chair and head of global business development at Protein Sciences in Meriden, Connecticut; Thomas Israel, chair and chief executive officer of Ingleside Investors; Richard S. Sackler, M.D., of Greenwich, Connecticut; Jonathan M. Rothberg, Ph.D. ’91, professor (adjunct) of genetics and a pioneer of next-generation gene sequencing; Bonnie E. Gould Rothberg, M.D. ’94, M.P.H. ’05, Ph.D. ’09, assistant professor of medicine (medical oncology); and Clifford L. Slayman, Ph.D., emeritus professor of cellular and molecular physiology, who was married to Slayman for 57 years.
Carolyn Slayman was an exceptional mentor who was committed to nurturing the next generation of scientists. In 2012, for example, she was instrumental in establishing a Junior PI (Principal Investigator) Retreat—now an annual event— aimed at helping junior investigators navigate the complexities of establishing a research program. Early career investigators often sought her advice, which she readily dispensed, and she would periodically check in with them to learn if she could be of further assistance. The yet-to-be-named holder of the professorship will be a preeminent scientist at the School of Medicine who embodies the attributes and character Slayman displayed in her scientific and administrative roles, is committed to mentoring young investigators, and is supportive of advancement opportunities for women.
“Carolyn was an outstanding role model and a beloved figure,” says Alpern. “She had the rare ability to motivate, inspire, and engage individual faculty at every level while at the same time carrying out a broader vision. This professorship is a fitting tribute to the indelible imprint she left upon the school and its community.”