Dr. Steve Prescott liked new buildings and laboratories as much as the next president. He led the largest campus expansion in OMRF’s history, adding a new research tower that brought another 200,000 square feet of clinical and lab space to the foundation’s campus.
Yet he knew that what really makes an organization special is its people.
Prescott, who led OMRF from 2006 until his death in 2021, took particular care when it came to recruiting OMRF’s principal investigators, the scientists who run each of OMRF’s 50-plus labs. He’d interview every candidate personally, which is far from typical for the president of a research institute. He did it because he believed the “high touch” approach was crucial to bringing the most talented researchers to Oklahoma and OMRF.
“It’s hard to attract the best scientists out there,” he told Findings magazine in 2017. “So, you need to try to sell the city and organization from day one.”
In the waning days of his presidency, as Prescott’s long journey with cancer came to an end, OMRF launched a fundraising campaign in his honor. Now complete, the effort created a new fund that will support the recruitment and retention of scientists.
Donors gave more than $10 million to create the Stephen M. Prescott Endowment Fund for the Best and Brightest. Soon after he became president, Dr. Andrew Weyrich created a process for selecting the scientists who will receive support from the Prescott Endowment Fund.
In September, Weyrich named the first two recipients: Drs. Audrey Cleuren and Jake Kirkland. Both joined OMRF in 2021 – Cleuren after completing her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, Kirkland after finishing his at Stanford. The funding will help OMRF support them in the early days of their independent scientific careers, where he’ll study cellular processes that can lead to cancer, and she, like Prescott, will research blood vessels and cardiovascular disease.
Cleuren and Kirkland represent the first of many scientists who will benefit from the fund, which will make distributions annually. Weyrich, who was a protégé of Prescott’s as a young researcher, says it’s a fitting salute to his mentor.
“Steve’s goal was to bring the most talented scientists to OMRF and to keep them here.” The Prescott Endowment Fund, says Weyrich, “will help us do just that.”