issue Community Health 2024

Becoming 鶹Ӱ: Dignitaries Gathered in 2004 at Renaming Celebration

By Kelly Reiss
From left, Lady Nina Franklin and Sir Roland Franklin with Pioneering NASA astronaut Sally Ride, PhD.

A seminal event in the history of the university took place 20 years ago on a frigid Tuesday morning. On Jan. 27, 2004, we became Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, the first medical institution in the United States to recognize a female scientist through an honorary namesake.

Then-president and CEO K. Michael Welch, MB, ChB, FRCP, sought to invoke a distinctive identity for the institution through a name change. The 2004 renaming signified a commitment, posed a change and offered inspiration. Like the university and its member colleges/schools, Dr. Rosalind Franklin — a British chemist and researcher whose meticulous research led to the discovery of the structure of DNA — confronted opposition, worked to meet and exceed the highest professional standards, and persevered in the determination to elucidate hard science in the service of humanity.

Brenda Maddox signs a copy of her Dr. Franklin biography
Brenda Maddox signs a copy of her Dr. Franklin biography “The Dark Lady of DNA” for faculty member Eric Walters, PhD.

A special day on campus was celebrated by a crowd of hundreds — including faculty, staff, students, administrators and community members. Local schoolchildren also joined the group, attending a special “mini-medical school” enrichment opportunity.

At the renaming ceremony, Dr. Welch hailed Dr. Franklin as “a role model for our students, researchers, faculty and all aspiring scientists throughout the world.” Pioneering NASA astronaut Sally Ride, PhD, was presented with the inaugural Rosalind Franklin Award, which recognizes women who have had a transforming influence in our world, and she gave an inspirational address to the audience.

unveiling the new 鶹Ӱ logo
Members of the Franklin family and 鶹Ӱ officials including Dr. Welch, at far right, unveil the new logo.

Dr. Franklin’s younger brother, Sir Roland Franklin, gave a moving address on the love and admiration he had for his sister, and he joined members of the Franklin family in unveiling a new logo featuring the crystalline Photograph 51. Rosalind Franklin, a niece of Dr. Franklin who would go on to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees, led a moment of silence to honor her aunt near the close of the ceremony.

A symposium centered on Dr. Rosalind Franklin’s legacy followed a luncheon. The dignified panel included Dr. Franklin’s mentee at King’s College, Raymond Gosling, PhD; biographer Brenda Maddox; filmmaker John Barnett; professor of biological science and researcher Lynne Osman Elkin, PhD; Dr. Franklin’s brother, Colin Franklin; and experts in the field of X-ray crystallography David Moss, PhD, Clare Sansom, PhD, and 鶹Ӱ’s David Mueller, PhD. The symposium was moderated by Marcia B. Cohen, PhD, physician and science journalist.

From that day forward, our institution was forever changed.

The tangible touchstones of the statue at the Main Entrance and the Tribute Wall at the Morningstar IPEC entrance are a presence that resounds Dr. Franklin’s commitment each day as we enter to begin our day in pursuit of the advancement of science.

Kelly Reiss is director of the Rosalind Franklin University Archives and the Feet First Exhibition.

Dr. Gosling with  Dr. Wendy Rheault
Dr. Gosling with then-College of Health Professions Dean Dr. Wendy Rheault.