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Washington campus gives Kennedy a 'user-friendly' re- entry
STANFORD -- For Donald Kennedy last quarter, speeches gave way to seminars, trustee meetings gave way to tutorials, and runs to "The Dish" (a radio telescope in the Stanford University foothills) gave way to workouts in Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park.
All in all, the time the president emeritus spent at Stanford in Washington from January though March did him a lot of good, Kennedy said in a recent telephone interview.
"It really has been quite a terrific experience," said Kennedy, who served as faculty member in residence at the satellite campus he was so instrumental in founding.
"For me, it's been a particularly user-friendly way of getting back into the classroom."
Kennedy, a professor of biological sciences and former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stepped down as university president last August and is now in the middle of a year's sabbatical.
While staying at Stanford in Washington, he led weekly two-hour seminars on environmental science and policy, which were followed by dinners and talks with a variety of Washington environmental experts.
His involvement with students, though, went far beyond that.
He oversaw a number of student projects, including an analysis of re-authorization prospects for the Endangered Species Act. And since many Stanford in Washington students are seniors thinking about graduate school and careers, he spent plenty of time writing recommendations.
He also found time to socialize with students - accompanying groups to the ballet and local ethnic restaurants - and even engaged in some touch football, to the students' delight. (Membership at a gym frequented by his daughter, a Washington D.C. attorney, helped keep him in "California condition," he explained.)
"In the beginning, I think people were intimidated by him. But he was real enthusiastic and it definitely rubbed off," said Stanford in Washington participant Karen Plaut, a civil engineering student.
The former president "really cares about students," agreed David Danelski, Stanford in Washington's retiring director.
"Usually Don gives his seminar every Tuesday. But one Thursday afternoon I happened to listen in, and he was teaching a roomful of students how to write term papers - using topic sentences, transitions and so forth. He's in heaven."
In addition to his teaching duties, Kennedy held a visiting appointment at the World Resources Institute and spent some time figuring out how to restructure and enlarge the Health Effects Institute, a non-profit corporation that supports and evaluates research relating to the health effects of motor vehicle emissions.
When he returns to the home campus in the spring, he plans to give a few lectures in the human biology core. "Then next year," he said, "I'll start in earnest as a regular, on-duty member of the faculty."
He is particularly looking forward to working with Professor Walter Falcon and others at the Institute for International Studies, where they hope to develop an interdisciplinary program for faculty interested in global environmental issues. Falcon is director of the institute.
Kennedy and his wife, Robin, will continue to live on campus.
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