The Great Professors
As an English major “with essentially no skills or knowledge but a lot of enthusiasm for research,” Adam Goldfarb, M86, had little reason to expect much attention from David Stollar, then chairman of the medical school’s biochemistry department and globally recognized for his research in immunology. “Most principal investigators have little time for anyone who is not likely to be a major ‘producer’ for them,” recalls Goldfarb, professor of pathology and an NIH-funded principal investigator in hematology at the University of Virginia. “But David’s response was to personally teach me many of the relevant techniques and principles, provide me with my own project, and clear a bench space dedicated for my usage. I have never in my career encountered someone so generous with their time and resources.”
From the moment he arrived at Tufts School of Medicine as an assistant professor in 1964 to his retirement in 2005, Stollar remained equally dedicated to teaching and research, even while serving for seventeen years as department chair and two years as interim dean of the Sackler School. As the 2005 letter proposing him for emeritus status put it, Stollar’s “collegiality and leadership are the stuff of legend.”
“I enjoyed both the lab and the lecture mode,” says Stollar. “I sometimes felt my main job was to mentor and provide guidance but not get in the way of some of the wonderful students I had,” one of whom is now his personal physician.
Another is Sean Carroll, L83, a scientist and author who is a professor and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin. “David is a treasure trove of knowledge in immunochemistry, and he shared all of that on a daily basis,” says Carroll, a leader in the field of evolutionary developmental biology. “He was willing to allow for a great deal of independence as I worked on things that were out of the main flow of the lab. That generosity enabled me to explore subjects that interested me and to develop stronger skills—priceless experience for the future.” Stollar is a great scientist, says Carroll. “And he was and is, in every sense of the word, a great professor.” —PHIL PRIMACK, A70