posted March 1, 2011

Arlene Blum of Berkeley to Present Neckers Lecture

Dr. Arlene Blum, who is the executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a visiting scholar in the department of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, will present two addresses on March 10-11 while on campus to deliver the annual James and Jeanette Neckers Lectureship in Chemistry at Hope College.

A well-known mountain climber and author as well as a chemist focused on science policy, she will present the address "Climbing Your Own Everests:  Peaks, Public Health, and Policy" on Thursday, March 10, at 7 p.m. in the DeWitt Center main theatre.  She will deliver the Neckers Lecture, "Organohalogens in Consumer Products:  Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Health and Environmental Risks?," on Friday, March 11, at 4 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited to both events.  Admission is free.

Blum received her bachelor's degree from Reed College and her doctorate in biophysical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked under the mentorship of Dr. Ignacio Tinoco.  As a post-doc with Dr. Bruce Ames at Berkeley, she demonstrated the cancer-causing properties of two flame retardants widely used in children's sleepwear, which led directly to their regulation.

She then took a break from science, spending the next three decades climbing mountains and writing books.  She led the first American - and all-women's - ascent of Annapurna I (8,091m), led the first women's team up Mount McKinley (6,194m) and was the first American woman to attempt Mount Everest (8,848m).

Blum returned to science and policy work in 2006 after learning that the same chemicals she studied in the 1970s are still used in furniture and baby products.

For her work, she has received a number of awards, including being named one of the 100 "Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet"; the Purpose Prize, given to those older than 60 who are solving society's greatest problems; and a Gold Medal from the Society of Women Geographers, an honor previously given to only eight other women, including Amelia Earhart, Margaret Mead and Mary Leakey.

The James and Jeanette Neckers Lectureship and Student Assistance Fund through which Blum is speaking was established in 1984 by Dr. James W. and Jeanette Hoffman Neckers, members of the college's Class of 1923, to support annual lectureships in chemistry. Through additional gifts from Dr. Neckers, the fund was expanded to include student summer research stipends and student scholarships.

James Neckers was chairman of the Department of Chemistry at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for 37 of his 40 years at the university. Under his leadership, the department grew from a three-year offering in chemistry to granting the doctorate; the faculty grew from three to 23. Jeanette Neckers died on June 10, 1992, and James Neckers died on May 8, 2004.

Blum's visit to campus is co-sponsored by the Campus Sustainability Task Force, the Hope College Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, the department of geological and environmental sciences, and the women's studies program.

The DeWitt Center is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.  Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., facing College Avenue between 10th and 12th streets.