Kern Wildenthal

President, Children's Medical Center Foundation

The Significance of The O’Donnell Awards and The Man Most Responsible for Advancing Scientific Research Excellence in Texas: Peter O’Donnell, Jr.19 March 2014

At its Annual Conference in January, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST) paid a heartfelt tribute to Peter O’Donnell Jr. by honoring him with the Kay Bailey Hutchison Distinguished Service Award for his extraordinary contributions to the advancement of science.

The award was established in 2013 to recognize individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in furthering TAMEST’s mission to secure the future of Texas as a leader in medicine, engineering, and science. Sen. Hutchison was the first recipient of the award that year.

Those of use who were on the founding board of TAMEST regard Mr. O’Donnell and Sen. Hutchison as the “father and mother” of the organization. They have been unsurpassed in their dedication to advancing research excellence in Texas.

TAMEST honored Mr. O’Donnell in a different way 10 years ago, when he, Sen. Hutchison, and the TAMEST board decided it was important to recognize and encourage rising stars among researchers in Texas who had not yet been elected to one of the national academies, but whose quality of work made them stand out as likely future members. Peter O’Donnell and his wife, Edith, provided an endowment that would grow to generate $100,000 annually to enable four outstanding young researchers to receive special awards – in engineering, technology, medicine, and science. The TAMEST board voted unanimously to name them the O’Donnell Awards.

It is exceedingly rare to be able to identify a single individual who has had the creativity to conceive, plan, and initiate a new, transformational program; the generosity to fund it; and the dedication to ensure its long-term success. Peter O’Donnell has achieved this feat not just once but multiple times, especially at UT Southwestern Medical Center and UT Austin. It has been inspiring and thrilling to work with him and Edith on many of their initiatives over the years.

Although they are most always anonymous in their giving, the O’Donnell’s are among the greatest philanthropists in America. Due to celebrate his 90th birthday later this year, Peter O’Donnell, along with Edith, has made truly monumental contributions to science, education, and the arts in Texas and throughout the nation for the past six decades.

The approaching deadline of April 30, 2013 for submission of the coming year’s nominations for the O’Donnell Awards serves to highlight again the exceptional commitment of Peter O’Donnell to the advancement of scientific research and excellence. Texas citizens are privileged to be special beneficiaries of his leadership and vision.


Kern Wildenthal

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