Westfall, first College of Science dean, to step down this summer

3/2/2007 | By: Staff Report  |

David Westfall, who in a career spanning more than 25 years at the University of Nevada, Reno won nearly every major teaching and research award and who made University history when he was named the first dean of the College of Science, announced today that he will be stepping down as dean this summer. Westfall was appointed dean of the University's newly created College of Science in 2004.

"Dave Westfall has had a remarkable career at the University, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for his ability to step forward and turn the concept of a College of Science into a shining reality," Provost John Frederick said. "He has done just about everything an individual could do on a college campus, and done it with excellence. He's been a gifted researcher, an inspiring teacher, an administrator with vision and a great ability to articulate that vision.

"I am tremendously grateful for his willingness to step back into administration three years ago to take the helm of the college. He has been one of our campus' truly outstanding citizens, and I will miss his wise contributions on the Academic Leadership Council."

"Fostering the future of one of the University's largest colleges has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my career," Westfall said. "It's very rare in this day and age to start literally at the ground floor of an academic unit as we've done with the College of Science. I've been extremely proud of our faculty, our students and our staff in our ability to come together for something that is going to benefit our university and our state for years and years to come.

"On a personal note, it's been very rewarding for me to get to know our faculty. I knew many of them already, but as a dean you are able to forge special relationships with talented, dedicated people. I'm going to miss our faculty and my staff a great deal. Their enthusiasm, their talent, and their ability to work together for a common goal has been extraordinarily heartening for me to be a part of."

Associate Dean Jeff Thompson, a former chairman of the Department of Physics, said Westfall's influence on the college and those he worked with was profound: "Working on a day-to-day basis with Dave Westfall for the past three years has been one of the highlights of my career. He's been a great mentor and friend to me. But that doesn't make you unique when it comes to Dave Westfall. There are countless others on this campus who also consider him a great mentor and a great friend. I'm going to miss him a great deal."

Westfall, 64, said that after a quarter century at the University, "It's probably time for someone else to take the reins and take the college to another new and exciting place. I really do feel it's time for me step aside. This is an exciting time for our college. We're on solid footing, and we're continuing to grow and we're continuing to make plans for our new Math and Science Building, which will certainly be one of the major milestones in our brief but important history.

"I've loved my time at this University. I feel good about all the work I've done, and feel most fortunate to have made so many great friendships over the years. Anyone who knows me knows that I love our students – that's probably going to be the hardest thing for me to step away from. To hear their stories, and to feel that in some small part that I helped contribute to the realization of a lifelong goal, is something I will always cherish about my time at Nevada."

Since its inception in January 2004, the College of Science, an amalgamation of the science departments from the former College of Arts and Sciences and departments from the former Mackay School of Mines, has brought together the pure and applied physical sciences, earth sciences and engineering, life sciences and mathematics in an effort to, according to the college's vision statement, "to better educate students, conduct cutting edge research relevant to society, and to reach out to surrounding communities to promote literacy in these subject fields."

With a budget of approximately $40 million, the College of Science is one of the University's largest and most complex academic units. The college has about 950 undergraduate majors and 400 graduate students in the College of Science, with more than 12,000 University of Nevada undergraduate students who are enrolled in courses offered by College of Science departments annually. The College of Science receives about $28 million a year for research and scholarly activity, and features more than 190 academic faculty and generates about 36,000 student credit hours per semester.

"We take a lot of pride in the fact that in one form or another, most of the roads at the University of Nevada, Reno pass right through our college," Westfall said.

Prior to his appointment as dean of the College of Science, Westfall was a professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University from 1996-2001.

Westfall has long been considered one of the University's finest researchers and teachers. He is one of the longest continuously funded National Institutes of Health researchers in the country. In 1989, Westfall was named the university's Outstanding Researcher. In 1996, he earned the University and Community College System of Nevada Regents Award as Outstanding Researcher. Westfall was named a University Foundation Professor in 1987 and is a 25-year faculty member at Nevada. In addition to his time as the university's top academic official from 1996-2001, Westfall also served as chairman for 15 years of the Department of Pharmacology and has been assistant dean for Research for the School of Medicine.

In 1988, he received the School of Medicine's Outstanding Teacher award. He is a three-time winner of the School of Medicine's "Golden Apple" award – an annual award given by the School of Medicine's graduating class to the school's top teacher.

As a researcher, Westfall has an international reputation in the area of physiology and pharmacology of the autonomic nerve-effector junction. He has been been successful in identifying the chemicals released from nerves that help control the tone of blood vessels and other organs. Abnormalities in that control can lead to conditions such as hypertension. His research work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Foundation for Research. He has served on a number of peer review groups for the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. He has also been member of several advisory boards for various professional journals and has published more than 350 articles regarding his research.


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