News Story

Human Science Professor Becomes First Holder of Dekkers Endowed Chair

August 29, 2019 – A federally funded researcher has become the first holder of the Dekkers Endowed Chair in the Department of Human Science at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Dr. Blythe Shepard, an assistant professor in the department whose kidney and liver research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (1K01DK106400-01A1), was recognized at a special chair inauguration ceremony yesterday evening in Riggs Library.

The new endowed chair was created through the generosity of Dr. Marijn Dekkers and Mrs. Andra Dekkers, who are the parents of Alexandra (NHS’19), Marina (B’21), and Stephanie (NHS’21). Dr. Dekkers also serves on the university’s Board of Directors and the school’s Board of Advisors.

“We are excited to support faculty and students’ research in human sciences,” Dr. Dekkers says, adding that they “hope to stimulate the students’ scientific and discovery skills in new areas of human biochemistry.”

The Dekkers were honored at the reception, which was hosted by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and NHS Dean Patricia Cloonan. “We’re deeply grateful to Marijn and Andra Dekkers and the entire Dekkers family for their vision and leadership,” DeGioia says. 

Feeling Blessed

Shepard, who was introduced by department chair Dr. Pablo Irusta, expressed her gratitude for the Dekkers’ generosity.

“In just over two years here at Georgetown, I have been blessed to work with such a talented group of young scientists,”  says Shepard, who notes that the Jesuit value of formation goes hand-in-hand with her work as a research mentor.

Shepard holds a PhD in cellular and microbial biology, which she received at the Catholic University of America. She also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as well as two degrees at Boston College, a bachelor of science in biology and a bachelor of arts in secondary education.

‘Extraordinary Generosity’

Along with the chair, the Dekkers have also created the Dekkers Family Endowed Human Science Research Fund to support faculty and student research initiatives within the department.

“In establishing the Dekkers Endowed Chair in Human Science and in creating a fund to support research, the Dekkers family has enabled our University to further deepen our commitment to the scholarship underway in our Department of Human Science, and expand the research opportunities available to our students and faculty,” DeGioia says. 

“This is a wonderful and well-deserved honor for Dr. Shepard, and we are truly grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the Dekkers family,” says Cloonan. “The endowed chair and research fund will allow us to support, in substantive ways, the work of our faculty and undergraduate student investigators.”