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COLLEGE STATION --

Three prominent Texas A&M University former students from the College of Science have earned selection by the college for its highest alumni honor, induction into its Academy of Distinguished Former Students.

Dr. Stephen M. Prescott, M.D., Class of 1970, of Oklahoma City, Okla.; Dr. Bobby G. Wixson, Class of 1966, of Springfield, Mo.; and Dr. Eric Yong Xu, Class of 1993, of Beijing, China, will be recognized Thursday (Mar. 31) for their achievements and contributions to their professions, community and causes as part of the college's Spring Recognition and Awards Dinner, to be held at Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station. The college also will recognize its current scholarship recipients along with all of the donors who have established new endowed gifts within the college's five departments during the past year.

The Academy was established in 1996 to recognize Aggies who have brought honor to their alma mater and professions through outstanding leadership in mathematics, statistics, the sciences and medicine. Prescott, Wixson and Xu join a prestigious list of 51 previous honorees distinguished for their merit and innovative achievements.

Prescott received a bachelor of science in biology and chemistry in 1970 from Texas A&M, as well as an M.D. in medicine in 1973 from Baylor College of Medicine prior to completing his training in internal medicine at the University of Utah. Since 2006, he has served as president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF). A leader in studies of the basic mechanisms of human disease, Prescott came to OMRF from the University of Utah, where he founded the Eccles Program in Human and Molecular Biology & Genetics and was executive director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

At OMRF, Prescott has led a $100 million effort to fund the largest campus expansion in the foundation's history. The centerpiece is OMRF's research tower, a 186,000-square-foot, gold-level-LEED-certified facility where physicians in OMRF's Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence treat more than 2,000 MS patients while exploring new avenues of clinical research. The MS Center is part of OMRF's Autoimmune Disease Institute recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as one of 10 Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence in the U.S. Under Prescott's leadership, The Scientist magazine has repeatedly recognized OMRF as one of its "Best Places to Work" in academia and for postdoctoral fellows. Two OMRF medications also have received FDA approval.

Prior to joining the Utah faculty in 1982, Prescott did his advanced research training at Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis). In addition to being a professor of internal medicine at Utah, he held the H.A. & Edna Benning Presidential Endowed Chair, authoring more than 250 scientific articles and training 40 research students and postdoctoral fellows. Prescott served as a senior editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Journal of Clinical Investigation and on NIH, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society advisory committees. He has been elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, and the Royal Academy of Medicine in Spain. In addition to receiving many scientific awards, he is the founder of the biotechnology company LineaGen.

"The leadership of Dr. Prescott has created a world-class research institute on the plains of Oklahoma," said H.E. Rainbolt, chairman emeritus of Oklahoma City-based BancFirst and a longtime member of the OMRF Board of Directors. "If impacting health of the world through professional ability, leadership and recognition are the measurements for your selection, in my opinion, you have no choice [beyond] Dr. Steve Prescott."

Wixson received a Ph.D. in aquatic biology in 1966 from Texas A&M after earning both his bachelor of science in geology and and master of science in biology in 1960 and 1961, respectively, from Sul Ross State University, where he is a distinguished alumnus. His 30-year academic career spanning two universities began in 1967 at the University of Missouri-Rolla (formerly Missouri School of Mines), where he conducted extensive studies on lead and other trace metals in the Lead Belt of Missouri. In 1987, he moved to Clemson University, serving as dean of the College of Science until 1996. Wixson is Dean Emeritus of Science and Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at Clemson, as well as Professor Emeritus of Environmental Health in the Department of Civil Engineering and Dean Emeritus of International Programs at Missouri-Rolla.

Wixson is the author, co-author or editor of eight books, 11 chapters in books and nearly 150 publications concerned with heavy metals in the environment, aquatic pollution, hazardous waste management and the development of cleanup standards for lead and heavy metal-contaminated sites. A board member since 1996 for the James River Basin Partnership, a citizens' action group for upper White River Drainage Basin, Wixson was part of the 1999 State of Missouri Task Force that recommended phosphorus limitations for point sources in Southwest Missouri.

Wixson boasts extensive service on a host of national and international committees, including as a U.S. Department of State Scholar-Diplomat in Technology, Environmental, and Scientific Affairs; two terms on the National Academy of Sciences' Geochemical Environment in Relation to Health and Disease Committee, and as a reviewer/consultant for the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, United Nations Environmental Program and other agencies and industries. His many honors include the State of Brazil's Gold Medal for Interamerican Partners Programs in 1980.

"Bobby's achievements and accomplishments are unparalleled, and I fear I have neither the wit nor the words to do justice to his storied career," said Dr. Andrew Hunt, an associate professor and graduate advisor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas at Arlington. "He has been an inspirational ambassador for higher education in the United States, particularly during his tenure as Dean of International Programs at the University of Missouri-Rolla, when he successsfully launched programs in universities in many countries. I think it would be presumptuous of me to commend to you such a towering figure as Bobby, as his reputation and many successes speak far more eloquently for him than I ever could."

Xu received his Ph.D. in biology in 1993 from Texas A&M after earning his bachelor's and master's of science degrees in biology from Peking University. Widely respected as one of China's most influential entrepreneurs and investors, he is co-founder of Baidu, the world's largest Chinese search engine, as well as founder and chairman of YIFANG Ventures, an asset management and venture capital company based in both Beijing and Singapore.

A Rockefeller Foundation fellow (1990-1993) while at Texas A&M, Xu created some of the world's first transgenic rice plants for his studies on the regulation of gene expression. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (1994-1996) prior to moving into biotechnology start-ups in the Silicon Valley and eventually into similar ventures in China. Xu currently serves as a board member for several technology start-up companies in China and the U.S.

In 2015, he honored his Texas A&M mentor, the late Distinguished Professor of Biology Timothy C. Hall, by making the lead gift to establish the Timothy C. Hall-Heep Foundation Distinguished Faculty Chair in Biology that will support visiting Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) scholars in the field of plant molecular biology. Xu also is founder and chairman of three family philanthropic organizations that support non-profit research dedicated to inspiring policy change and/or adjustment. Each is based on the premise of promoting social equality, supporting public philanthropy, and promoting the development of positive and sustainable welfare organizations and projects.

"Dr. Eric Xu was an amazing student and scientist while he was here," said Dr. Thomas D. McKnight, professor and head of the Texas A&M Department of Biology. "He finished his Ph.D. in a little less than four years, which is a remarkable accomplishment in the experimental sciences. However, that was long enough for him to become imbued with the Aggie spirit of giving back to help others succeed. His love for his mentor, Dr. Timothy Hall, and for the university are reflected in his amazing generosity. The Department of Biology is grateful, not only for Dr. Xu's support, but also for the wonderful example he provides for our other students."

Members of the Academy receive a commemorative award and have their names inscribed on a perpetual plaque in the College of Science's Dean's Office.

For more information on the Academy and its previous inductees, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/giving/adfs.php.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Stephen M. Prescott, M.D. '70

  • Dr. Bobby G. Wixson '66

  • Dr. Eric Yong Xu '93

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