García Named as Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Endowed Chair

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Andrés J. García, a pioneering researcher who heads up a cellular and bioengineering lab in the Parker H. Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience, recently added another distinction to a growing list when he was selected to hold the brand new Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Endowed Chair in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

“This is truly an honor,” says García, a Regents’ Professor who currently holds a George W. Woodruff Professorship in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, which he describes as, “an exceptional unit to work in that has always provided me with tremendous support and encouragement.”

The honor became official at the May 20th meeting of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, and it comes almost exactly 110 years after Frank H. Neely graduated with his B.S. in mechanical engineering and embarked on a long and successful business career (most notably, he was president and chairman of the board at Rich’s Department Store).

But Neely, who died in 1979 and whose philanthropic support of Georgia Tech remained strong throughout (and, obviously, after) his life, made his greatest contributions as one of Atlanta’s prominent civic leaders for decades, even serving as director, deputy chairman and eventually chairman (for 16 years) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

As president of the Rich Foundation, Neely oversaw grants to Emory University and Georgia Tech. He held several federal appointments (under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy), and was instrumental in bringing a nuclear reactor to Georgia Tech’s campus (in 1963 Georgia Tech dedicated the Neely Nuclear Research Center). Neely and his wife, Rae (a renowned poet and the first research director for the Georgia Department of Education) also established a professorship at Georgia Tech, and donated, among other things, artwork and acres of land.

And now, the corpus of the Neely fund has grown to an amount that allowed the creation of two endowed chairs, one held by García, the other by Samuel Graham (whose focus is on micro and nano engineering). Professor William J. Wepfer, Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. Chair of the Woodruff School, appointed a committee of senior Woodruff School Chair holders (which included Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg), who reviewed all Woodruff School full professors before recommending García and Graham.

“This distinction is due to all the hard work of my students and postdocs, awesome collaborators, excellent staff, and the fantastic environment of Georgia Tech,” says García, whose own research integrates innovative engineering, materials science and cell biology concepts and technologies with the essential goal of developing better strategies for regenerative medicine.


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