George M. Stancel, Ph.D.
George M. Stancel, Ph.D.

Perspectives is the first in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with longtime faculty and staff at McGovern Medical School to give readers a glimpse into how the campus has changed over the years the impact the school has had on their professional lives. This week’s edition of Perspectives features George M. Stancel, Ph.D., professor affairs in the Department Integrative Biology and Pharmacology and executive vice president of academic and research. Earlier this year, Stancel was honored with a STAR Award for his 45 years of service.

  • What first brought you to McGovern Medical School?

I was just completing my postdoctoral training at the University of Illinois in 1972 when the Medical School was getting started, and I had several offers for assistant professor positions – one at the McGovern Medical School and a few others at older, established medical schools.  I thought I’d have opportunities at a brand new school that one might never have at an older one. I liked the spirit and sense of excitement of the people I met when I interviewed, and the Texas Medical Center seemed poised to really take off, so I accepted the job.

  • How has McGovern Medical School changed throughout your tenure here?

In a word – it has blossomed!   When I arrived, the site on which the school is now located was an unpaved parking lot, and the dean could host the entire faculty at his home for a Labor Day picnic to kick off the year. After that things just exploded in all areas – education, research, and clinical work.  It was, and remains, very exciting with more opportunities than many other institutions.

  • Are there any mentors or colleagues that have been instrumental to your development and achievements?

Absolutely, a great many, but several were especially important — the senior department chairs, Al Robison, my chair in Pharmacology; Jack DeMoss in Biochemistry; Gene Jacobsen in Physiology; and Emil Steinberger in Reproductive Biology.  Two senior faculty, Tom Burks and Anna Steinberger, were especially influential by their examples.  I also learned a great deal from the school’s first four deans, Cheves Smythe, Bob Tuttle, Ernie Knobil, and John Ribble.  Each of these people was unique and taught me different things, but they all shared a commitment to developing the school’s junior faculty.

  • Do you have any particular accomplishments, awards, or recognition that stand out and what makes them special?

That’s a tough question because I’ve been so fortunate to have many great experiences, but in retrospect, I’d have to say teaching, which to me is its own best reward. I’d like to think I might have done some good things in research and administrative leadership, but only time will tell about those.  There is no doubt, however, that the students and fellows I’ve had the good fortune to teach have made, and will continue to make, great contributions, as will their students, and so on and so on, and that never-ending cycle gives one a very special feeling of accomplishment.

  • What have you most enjoyed about your time at McGovern Medical School?

The most enjoyable thing has been the sense of family for me and my family.  Coming to work often felt more like going to a family gathering than to a job.  Everyone – faculty, students, and staff – blended together to make it a very special place that we were building together from the ground up. At times it felt like a small town “barn raising!”  I taught children of other faculty (and vice versa), I taught students whose parents I had taught, my wife (a preschool teacher) taught students that I subsequently taught, and she taught children whose parents I had taught.  Our own children always went to school with children of other faculty and staff, and my wife was one of the original members of the school’s Faculty Wives and Women Faculty Club (and their original cookbook is still one of our favorites).  It’s been a special and wonderful experience.  I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities the school gave me and the family-like environment it provided.