Gulf Coast Consortia honors Matthews’ extraordinary service

Gulf Coast Consortia honors Matthews’ extraordinary service

The Gulf Coast Consortia (GCC) honored Rice biochemist and former Dean of Natural Sciences Kathleen Matthews March 15 for her decade of service as chair of the GCC oversight committee and for her instrumental role in founding the landmark collaboration.

“One only has to ask oneself what the Texas Medical Center would look like today if Kathy hadn’t done what she’s done over the last number of years in facilitating and bringing together all of the investigators, all of the community, and building a sense of common collegial purpose among us all,” said Peter Davies, the incoming chair of the GCC oversight committee, chair of the John. S. Dunn Gulf Coast Consortium for Chemical Genomics and director of the Translation Cancer Research Program at Texas A&M University’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology.

George Phillips, Kathy Matthews and Monte Pettitt

Former Dean of Natural Sciences Kathleen Matthews (center) was honored March 15 for her role in founding the Gulf Coast Consortia (GCC) in 2001 and her decade of service as chair of the GCC oversight committee. The GCC formed around the W.M. Keck Center for Computational Biology, a collaboration Matthews co-founded in 1990 with George Phillips (left), the Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and professor of chemistry; Montgomery "Monte" Pettitt (right), director of the Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; and Wah Chiu (not pictured), Alvin Romansky Professor in Baylor College of Medicine's Department of Biochemistry, and chair emeritus of the GCC oversight committee.

About 50 GCC investigators attended a luncheon in Matthews’ honor at Trevisio Restaurant in the Texas Medical Center.

The GCC is a landmark collaboration that began in 2001. As the name consortia implies, the GCC is a group of groups. Each consortium and training program within the GCC is made up of dozens of researchers who work within a common field of interest, such as biochemistry, bioengineering, bioinformatics, magnetic resonance or neuroscience. At an institutional level, the GCC is itself a consortium of six of the leading institutions of the Texas Medical Center: Rice, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Health Science Center (UT Health), the University of Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

“I have often said there was no greater contribution that Kathy made than getting six presidents together in one room at one time,” said George Stancel, GCC oversight committee member and executive vice president of academic and research affairs at UT Health. “I was ready to send her to the Middle East.”

Each of the half-dozen speakers at the GCC luncheon, including many of the group’s co-founders, credited Matthews as the driving force behind the creation of the GCC and its predecessor, the W.M. Keck Center for Computational Biology. The Keck Center, a joint graduate and postdoctoral training partnership, which was founded in 1990, served as both the nucleus of the GCC and the model for its research consortia. The Keck Center, which now serves as the training program arm of the GCC, has enabled funding through state, federal and philanthropic sources for the training of hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the quantitative biomedical sciences.

“I didn’t do this on my own,” Matthews told the audience. “You are this community that is the GCC. You are what make it a community, and your commitment and your vision are what is going to continue this organization as we move into the future.”

Matthews then called each GCC staffer to the podium to thank them individually for the work they do to support the organization.

In appreciation of her service and commitment to the organization, the GCC presented Matthews with a crystal bowl inscribed with these words: Scientist, leader, mentor, visionary, advocate, friend.


About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.