Our Graduate School History

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A Selected History of the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope


Education on campus: Several City of Hope faculty members — including John Rossi, Ph.D., the Lidow Family Research Chair, and Jack Shively, Ph.D. — host graduate students from nearby universities such as Loma Linda University, University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles, in their laboratories for hands-on training in scientific techniques. 


Early momentum: Rossi and Shively propose a standalone graduate school within Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, partially inspired by the structure at Scripps Research Institute.
A delegation from City of Hope visits Scripps, including Rossi, Joseph Holden, Ph.D., then-acting director of Beckman Institute, and Thomas R. LeBon, Ph.D., an assistant research professor who would go on to become City of Hope’s first coordinator of graduate education. There, they learn more about the process the institute went through to establish its graduate school at a meeting with Norton Gilula, Ph.D., founding dean of Scripps’s Graduate Program in Macromolecular and Cellular Structure and Chemistry.


First class: City of Hope receives approval from the State of California’s Department of Education to establish an independent graduate school that will confer a doctoral degree in biological sciences. This follows years of curriculum development and operational planning. The school’s inaugural dean is Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D.,the Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery and  then-director of the Department of Biology. Working closely with Riggs in the development and administration of the school is Shively, then-chair of the Division of Immunology. 

“Establishment of the City of Hope’s graduate school is a culmination of many years of informal educational efforts at the City of Hope,” Riggs said. “These efforts have been, and continue to be, a natural extension of City of Hope’s mission, which, in part, is to share its expertise with the community and to contribute to the training of young scientists.”

Four students enroll in the initial class at the Graduate School of Biological Sciences. The school’s core curriculum focuses upon molecular biology, integrated with macromolecular structure, immunology, neuroscience, and cell and tumor biology. After students complete the core curriculum, they will concentrate the majority of their time on laboratory research projects for their dissertations.

“Intensive specialized laboratory education constitutes the foundation of the degree program to develop a professionally trained scientist prepared for a career in academic, medical or industrial research,” LeBon said.

At the time, other educational activities at City of Hope include a joint Ph.D. program with Loma Linda University’s Microbiology Department and a joint master’s degree with the Biological Sciences Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.


Graduation day: The Graduate School of Biological Sciences confers its first degree.


New leadership: Rossi, then-director of the Department of Molecular Biology, is appointed as dean of the Graduate School of Biological Sciences.

Steve Novak, Ph.D., M.B.A., is recruited to become the founding director of the Office of Professional Education, a role in which he takes the lead in achieving accreditation for the graduate school.


Accomplished visitors: Highlights of the graduate school’s commencement exercises include speeches from distinguished scientists and educators: 
  • David Galas, Ph.D. then-chancellor and chief scientific officer of Keck Graduate Institute
  • Gerald Joyce, Ph.D., vice president of research at the Scripps Research Institute
  • France Córdova, Ph.D., then-chancellor of University of California Riverside and future head of the National Science Foundation 
  • Nobel laureate Steven Chu, Ph.D., former U.S. secretary of energy (and brother of key graduate-school donor Morgan Chu, J.D., Ph.D.)
  • Nobel laureate Thomas Cech, Ph.D., former president of Howard Hughes Medical Foundation


Accreditation: The City of Hope Graduate School of Biological Sciences is granted accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an academic body that develops standards of excellence for educational institutions in the Western U.S. 

“Accreditation builds upon our graduate school’s reputation and validates our credibility among academia and prospective students,” Rossi said. 

To earn accreditation, City of Hope staff worked on a self-study report that compiled data to meet nine areas or standards, which ranged from governance to marketing of the graduate program, and included in-depth documentation of research, procedures and processes. Faculty members and administrators on the nine task forces generating the self-study report were guided by steering committee chair Susan E. Kane, Ph.D., professor of cancer biology.


Instrumentation for students: The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation awards a $750,000 grant to establish a new teaching laboratory for students at the Graduate School of Biological Sciences. 
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Teaching Laboratory will be on the first floor of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology at City of Hope, which opens in 2009. It is meant to provide dedicated research space and sophisticated equipment for first-year training in molecular, cellular, chemical, biochemical and genetic disciplines.
“The Parsons Foundation Teaching Laboratory will significantly expand the educational resources available to our students,” Rossi said. “The facility will allow students to learn basic and advanced laboratory skills through direct, hands-on experience. Our graduate students will be well-prepared to launch their own scientific pursuits and contribute to City of Hope’s overall research enterprise.” 

Equipment slated for the teaching laboratory included polymerase chain reaction instruments, gel electrophoresis equipment, fluorescence and inverted microscopes and computer workstations with advanced software. 

United efforts: The Center for Graduate and Professional Studies is created to align educational efforts across campus, including work at the Graduate School of Biological Sciences and the Office of Continuing Medical Education. 

Under the leadership of Susan Kane, senior vice president of academics, the new center enables the two entities to share valuable resources and increases efficiency, with centralized administration of registrar, recruitment and outreach, and outcomes research.
“We are entering into a new era at City of Hope and raising the visibility of educational activities on campus,” Kane said. “The Center for Graduate and Professional Studies will provide a more efficient and collaborative approach to sustaining our educational programs for students, fellows, staff and faculty alike.”


A home for the graduate school: City of Hope receives a $5 million gift from Shmuel Cabilly, Ph.D., a former City of Hope postdoctoral fellow, and Orly Cabilly, a former City of Hope research technician, that establishes the Cabilly-Riggs Academic Center. 

The gift centralizes the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology, under construction at the time. The center will include a dedicated space for teaching laboratories, classrooms and administrative offices, as well as a 150-seat auditorium for scientific seminars. 

“This gift represents our belief in the impact of City of Hope’s research and education programs,” Shmuel Cabilly said. “We believe strongly in giving researchers the freedom and resources to explore new scientific avenues, and to pursue innovative ideas to fight life-threatening diseases.” 

The center is named for Shmuel Cabilly and Arthur Riggs. In 1981, Riggs and Cabilly collaborated with scientists at Genentech on a novel method of making antibodies through recombinant DNA technology. This work led to patents on the production of novel antibodies and the development of cancer-fighting drugs such as Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin. Shmuel Cabilly’s wife, Orly, worked as a research technician in Rossi's laboratory. 

Facilities for students: The private foundation of City of Hope national board member Norman Payson, M.D., and his wife, Melinda Payson, gives $1 million gift to support the Graduate School of Biological Sciences. 

Half of the gift establishes the Dr. Norman and Melinda Payson Graduate Studies Center, where students will learn advanced research concepts, best practices and newly refined techniques within a formal teaching environment. The remaining $500,000 endows the Dr. Norman and Melinda Payson Graduate Student Fellowship, which funds student stipends. 

“The Graduate School of Biological Sciences provides an outstanding atmosphere for learning and discovery, and its faculty members are widely recognized as leaders in their fields,” Norman Payson said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to support such a visionary academic facility and help enrich the experience of tomorrow’s brightest researchers.” 

The Payson Graduate Studies Center, housed in the Cabilly-Riggs Academic Center, will consist of two classrooms, a study hall, a student lounge and other facilities. 


New resources, new name: The law firm Irell & Manella LLP commits $7 million to support City of Hope’s Graduate School of Biological Sciences. Of that total, $5 million, matched by a $5 million anonymous gift, renames the school as the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope. A $2 million gift creates the Irell & Manella Visiting Professorship. 

“These generous gifts will take City of Hope’s graduate school to the next level of academic excellence,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer. “Students in our graduate school have the potential to contribute a great deal to the scientific community and to our efforts to improve treatments for people with life-threatening diseases. We are grateful to Irell & Manella for helping to enhance City of Hope’s research and teaching efforts.”


Dean’s chair: In a gift announced on commencement day, Morgan and Helen Chu contribute $2.5 million to establish the Morgan & Helen Chu Dean’s Chair for the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope. 

John Rossi is the first holder of the chair. It is the latest in a series of multimillion-dollar gifts from the Chus and the Los Angeles-based law firm of Irella & Manella LLP, where Morgan Chu is a partner. 

“Morgan and Helen Chu’s contribution to our graduate school further guarantees the distinction of our institution and supports our efforts to guide our students to become the next generation of scientific pioneers,” Friedman said. “We are most grateful for their foresight and generosity.” 


Master’s program: The Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope collaborates with the Keck Graduate Institute to launch the two-year Master of Science Program in Translational Medicine. The program is co-directed by Yilun Liu, Ph.D., a professor and associate chair of cancer genetics and epigenetics from City of Hope and Anastasia Levitin, Ph.D., a professor of KGI. This offering is aimed at providing students with applied research experience and in-depth understanding of how to translate basic research into medical products. The inaugural class comprises two students and has quickly increase to seven students for 2019 class enrollment with an anticipation of further expansion to 20 students per year in the next few years.


Decanal transition: David Ann, Ph.D., is named the dean and Morgan & Helen Chu Dean’s Chair of the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope. A professor and associate chair of diabetes complications and metabolism, Ann builds on a history with the graduate school in his new role, having taught graduate-level courses, served as associate dean for admissions for two years and chaired the admissions committee for seven years. Liu is named the inaugural vice dean of the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences and continues to direct the development and expansion of the master’s program.