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Dr. Dana Dabelea awarded the Conrad M. Riley Endowed Professorship

Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD
Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD

The Colorado School of Public Health is pleased to announce the appointment of Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD as the school’s inaugural Conrad M. Riley, MD Endowed Professor

Internally announced by Dean David Goff, MD, PhD during the school’s annual Public Health Exchange in September, the appointment became official October 1, 2013. 

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Dana Dabelea is our inaugural Conrad M. Riley Endowed Professor. By awarding the first endowed professorship in the school, we have recognized one of our school’s strongest researchers. Dr. Dabelea is making major contributions to our understanding of the developmental and inter-generational origins of diabetes, one of our most pressing public health problems. Beyond her many research contributions, she is also an outstanding educator and administrator. She is truly deserving of this honor. 

Along with the announcement, Dr. Dabelea, presented the school’s first annual Conrad M. Riley Endowed Professor lecture at the Public Health Exchange on the topic of “Early life origins of pediatric obesity and diabetes.” 

“I am honored to receive this endowment and would like to acknowledge and thank the CSPH leadership, faculty and students for all their support and friendship throughout the years,” shared Dr. Dabelea. 

As a professor of epidemiology Dr. Dana Dabelea is one of the school’s strongest scientists, having generated over $25 million since joining CU in 2001. She serves as the principal investigator of the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study at CSPH and national study co-chair. SEARCH is a multi-center study funded by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) that focuses on U.S. diabetic children under the age of 20. She is also a leader in the field of developmental origins of chronic diseases, with two longitudinal cohort studies funded by NIDDK exploring the early life origins of pediatric obesity and metabolic outcomes. Dr. Dabelea is also active in the school’s education mission teaching both masters and doctoral level students, and serves as Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs. She earned a medical degree and PhD degree in Clinical Sciences from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timisoara, Romania. 

The Riley Endowed Professor is the school’s first seated endowed professorship, and provided funding to support the research and academic activities of the professor. Funded through a bequest made by the late University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Conrad M. Riley, MD and his wife Marilyn, the endowed professor was created in honor of Riley’s grandfather, an industrial era entrepreneur, Milton Prince Higgins. 

​​About Dr. Conrad M. Riley 

Dr. Conrad M. Riley, a versatile pediatrician who helped describe Riley-Day syndrome, a rare genetic childhood disorder that harms the nervous system and often leads to early death. He joined the University of Colorado in 1960 as a member of the School of Medicine faculty. He served as Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine (predecessor to the school of public health) from 1961-1966, and as Associate Dean within the School of Medicine. Along with Dr. Riley’s clinical and research endeavors, he argued for liberalizing Colorado's abortion law and for increasing the number of women and minority members accepted to the medical school. 

About Milton Prince Higgins 

MPH, as he was known to his colleagues, was a true product of the industrial revolution. He was born December 7, 1842, in southern Maine, the ninth in a family of eleven children. They lived on a farm, and their father had a shop for making and repairing tools, so all the sons developed mechanical skills. After finishing high school at age seventeen, MPH went to Manchester, New Hampshire, where he served a three-year apprenticeship in machines hops of a manufacturing company. Though a competent machinist, MPH saw advantage of a college education. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a BS degree in 1868. 

Meanwhile, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was being born. Higgins was recruited to run the Washburn Shops where WPI engineering students would receive practical experience in woodworking, iron casting and other manufacturing techniques. Products made in the shops were marketed and actually returned some profits for the school. 

During MPH’s years within the Washburn Shops, he became impressed with grinding wheels made of clay imbedded with abrasive emery and baked in high temperature pottery kilns to the point of vitrification. In 1885 he and a partner bought out the Norton Pottery Company and remained it the Norton Emery Wheel Company. Research and experimentation developed better abrasives, and kilns capable of withstanding the high temperatures needed for processing the wheels were invented. The company’s named shorted to the Norton Company and began to include the manufacture of machines capable of precision grinding needed for the developing automotive industry. 

Among many products manufactured in the shops was the Plunger Elevator, designed and developed by MPH and Charles Morgan, a member of the shop committee of WPI. The elevator invention proved to be too profitable for the school, upsetting its academic curriculum; ironically, success forced MPH’s resignation in 1896. Thus began his career as an entrepreneur. With partner G.I. Alden, a WPI faculty member who also resigned, MPH purchased the elevator business. After further development they sold the elevator business to Otis Elevator Company in 1904. 

In the long run the Norton Company proved to be a profitable venture which provided the family wealth benefiting Dr. Riley and other MPH descendants, and serving as the basis for Dr. Riley being able to establish the endowed professorship. 

Other business ventures in which MPH was engaged included the Worchester Pressed Steel Company incorporated in 1904. Originally formed to produce bicycle frames, it later contributed to the automobile industry. In 1911, a year before his death, MPH sponsored the incorporation of the Sanford Riley Stoker Company. Stanford Riley, Dr. Conrad Riley’s father, died in 1926. 

In addition to his skills in the business world, MPH was greatly concerned with the education of young people, and in those days young people were primarily boys. Himself a product of the apprentice system, MPH felt strongly the need for practical training in mechanics and carpentry skills. He proposed that a high school program should be offered in which half the school day be devoted to shop-work, the product of which would be offered for sale. The other half of the school day would be devoted to academic studies. His proposal resulted in such a school in Worcester, and later in similar schools across the country. For his achievement MPH was dubbed the “Father of the Trade School.” Manual Training High School in Denver originated as such a school. 

MPH died in 1912, a year before Dr. Riley was born, and though he never knew is grandfather, he was pleased to honor him by creating this endowment. Riley passed away in 2005 and his wife Marilyn passed away in 2009. 

To learn more about planned giving opportunities or supporting the school through other means, please visit ​ ​​​

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