Bob Lefkowitz proudly displays his Nobel Prize medal (and diploma on the desk) at his Duke University Medical Center office, 20 December 2012. Photo: David Kroll
As I alluded to earlier on this index page, I was fortunate to score the cover story the January 9th issue of the Research Triangle's alternative weekly paper, INDY Week. Therein, I told the story of Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, the biochemist and cardiologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 with his former cardiology fellow, Brian K. Kobilka, MD, of Stanford University.
In this first edition of pixels that didn't make it to the final article, I want to follow on the moments after I took this photo after interviewing Bob for the article. He was kind enough to bring in his original Nobel medal and diploma for me to see and photograph (he's currently having a replica made of the medal so that he doesn't have to carry around the real one.).
As I was packing up my recorder, camera, and notebook, he pointed over at the sofa across his office where this framed photograph sat:
Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz of Duke University Medical Center is honored in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC, at the 2012-2013 men's basketball season pep rally and scrimmage, Countdown to Craziness, 19 October 2012. Photo: Chuck Liddy - firstname.lastname@example.org
On October 19th, a week or so after the Nobel announcement, Lefkowitz was invited to Duke's legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium for the men's basketball season kickoff/pep rally called Countdown to Craziness. Lefkowitz was called out to center court where Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the 2012-13 men's team presented him with his own Duke basketball jersey embroidered with his name and the number 1.
Lefkowitz's lab group framed the photo and had the entire team and Coach K autograph the matte.
After packing up his Nobel medal and diploma, Bob pointed over to the picture and said,
“How do you like that picture? My lab gave me this framed photograph - signed by the whole team – and Coach K. Which’ll really be something if they win the championship this year.
Yeah, I’ll really have something.”
Uh, yeah. But you'll still have the Nobel prize regardless.
Here's a low-res video of the event. The commentators babbled about basketball until 1:13 when they finally told their audience what they were watching. But listen to the crowd as the team left Lefkowitz at center court.
For me, the scene was reminiscent of a story I remember being told by the Southern "Grit Lit" writer and University of Florida writing professor, Harry Crews. Crews passed away last May at age 76 and had been beloved on the UF campus.
But he was never as popular as the Florida Gators football team. I can't find the precise reference right now but I recall him speaking of a dream he had where he was sitting with his typewriter at the 50-yard line of Florida Field ("The Swamp"). He then typed what he thought was his best sentence to date. As he hit the last key, the crowd of 80,000-plus gave him a standing ovation.
Grandiose, perhaps. But we really should honor our scholars with the same enthusiasm we reserve for collegiate sports.