Woodbury named CEO of Science Foundation Arizona

ASU's chief science and technology officer will lead the nonprofit, which connects researchers, businesses

July 21, 2020

Neal Woodbury, interim executive vice president of Arizona State University's Knowledge Enterprise and chief science and technology officer, has been named chief executive officer of Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz). SFAz is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to establish industry and university partnerships, attract world class talent and jobs to Arizona, enhance the state’s competitive standing in the global economy, and increase access to quality STEM education. 

“It’s an honor to be selected for this role, and I’m excited to work with the exceptional board members at SFAz, my colleagues at Arizona universities, our state government and the science-based industry in Arizona,” Woodbury said. “I also look forward to helping expand the application of innovative science and the high-tech workforce that underlies it.” Neal Woodbury ASU Neal Woodbury, ASU chief science and technology officer. Download Full Image

Woodbury is assuming the position previously held by William Harris, who served as CEO of SFAz since its inception in 2006. Under Harris’ leadership, SFAz funded and enhanced research and education at Arizona’s three state universities, as well as developed collaborative relationships with industry and state government. 

“The board of SFAz is pleased that a leader and scholar of such regard has accepted the leadership of the organization. Our board, led by SFAz founder Don Budinger and our longstanding CEO, Bill Harris, have built a significant asset for our state. The foundational support of our primary donor, Jerry Bisgrove, allowed SFAz to leverage additional resources and make broad investments in research that contributed greatly to our state’s economic prosperity,” said Rick Myers, chairman of the SFAz board and former Arizona Board of Regents member. “Going forward, we appreciate the strong support of ASU to keep SFAz building on our past success. With Neal’s leadership, we are excited for what the future will bring.”

Throughout the course of his 32-year tenure with ASU, Woodbury has been a trusted resource and advocate for the research enterprise, regularly advising ASU leadership on issues related to the university’s major research activities. He has been responsible for developing new, large-scale collaborative projects, as well as facilitating broad interactions between the Knowledge Enterprise and ASU’s academic units. Woodbury concurrently serves as a professor in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences.

“It’s great news for Arizona that Neal Woodbury has been appointed the next CEO of SFAz," said David Schultz, vice president for research at Northern Arizona University. "Neal’s deep knowledge of science and technology, Arizona’s universities, the needs and potential of STEM education, and the opportunities that exist to build Arizona’s economy, are ideally suited to support SFAz’s mission and the goals of the state in STEM and technology business growth. I look forward to working with Neal and furthering collaborations between Arizona’s great higher education institutions.”

Woodbury is an expert in the field of electron transfer and photosynthesis and is the co-founder of HealthTell, a company focused on a diagnostic technology known as immunosignaturing. In addition to his academic and research achievements, Woodbury is a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors and holds multiple patents.

Woodbury will continue in his role as interim executive vice president and professor at ASU in addition to this appointment.

Remembering Regents Professor Gary Keller

Keller, who was also the director of the Hispanic Research Center, is remembered for his commitment to underrepresented students, writers and artists

July 21, 2020

Arizona State University Regents Professor Gary Keller, a lifelong advocate for underrepresented students, died July 15 at the age of 77.

“Gary Keller was a tireless champion of educational access, and a scholar and mentor who dedicated his life to supporting student success," ASU President Michael Crow said. "Through his commitment to Latina/o students and other historically underserved communities, Gary helped lay the groundwork for the ideals later reflected in our ASU charter and the socioeconomic diversity of our student body. We will always be thankful for his advocacy and leadership.” Regents Professor Gary Keller Arizona State University Regents Professor Gary Keller is remembered for his commitment to underrepresented students, writers and artists. Download Full Image

In his 34-year-career at ASU, Keller taught Spanish and Chicano studies, led the Hispanic Research Center and served as founder and editor of ASU’s Bilingual Press. His many roles and projects at the university captured his passion and driving force: to champion minority voices and culture and help students reach their full academic potential.

"Gary was gifted in many different things and at many different levels in an absolutely unique way; he was a singularity,” said Michael Sullivan, a project administrator at the Hispanic Research Center Project who worked with Keller for more than 30 years at two universities. “There’s not many people that I’d pack up my family and move across the country to continue working with.”

Keller earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in Hispanic literature and linguistics, and simultaneously, a master’s degree in experimental psychology and a doctorate in Hispanic literature and linguistics. His broad education served as a foundation for decades of research projects and community efforts.

“Trying to explain how important Gary has been would be like trying to catch the wind,” said Antonio Garcia, the former associate director of the Hispanic Research Center and a current dean at New Mexico State University. Garcia knew Keller for 30 years. “It is hard to imagine anyone matching his energy and success in so many different areas — a true Renaissance man who made a great impact on the mid- to end of the 20th century and set in motion 21st-century changes to higher education.”

Keller’s work was widely acclaimed. From 2012–16, his academic enrichment projects through the Hispanic Research Center drove unprecedented results: 268 underrepresented minority students graduated with doctoral degrees in STEM fields and doctoral enrollment increased 622%. The following year, Keller received the Dr. Loui Olivas Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award; other accolades during his career include the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education President’s Award and the Dana Foundation Award for Pioneering Achievements in Education. At the time, the Pioneering Achievements in Education award was the largest annual prize in education in the country and Keller received a $50,000 prize, which he promptly donated back to his minority projects through the ASU Foundation.

He was involved with the More Graduate Education at Mountain States Alliance and the Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities. These two initiatives provide underrepresented minority students in STEM fields with funding and mentorship with the goal of increasing the number of these students enrolled in and completing graduate programs.

“Professor Keller embodied the spirit of ASU’s charter to measure success by whom we include and how they succeed decades before the language was adopted at the university,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His scholarly writings and innovative research along with his unwavering support of all undergraduate and graduate students will be greatly missed across the university, his scholarly community throughout the world, and the state of Arizona writ large.”

Brandon Ortega began working at the Hispanic Research Center as an undergraduate student and joined as a media specialist after graduation. He helped elevate Keller’s research through various mediums including video and photos. Ortega recalled Keller’s passion for research and learning.

“He loved education so much, he never stopped being a professor,” he said.

Keller authored or co-authored more than 30 books and produced more than two dozen documentaries. As editor of the Bilingual Press at ASU — the largest Hispanic-focused publisher and distributor in the country — Keller committed to publishing high-quality writing from established and emerging writers in English, Spanish and bilingual format.

In an interview more than a decade ago, Keller’s spirit of dedication to the Hispanic Research Center and the Bilingual Press was well-captured.

“If you go for something and commit to it for decades, then you can accomplish great things. If you do something for three years, even if it’s a great three years, it just vanishes,” he said. “Our philosophy is not that.”

Keller’s vision was to benefit the most people as possible to create a paradigm shift, Sullivan said. To achieve that vision, Keller needed support and his approachable, familiar personality allowed the Hispanic Research Center and its employees to thrive, with many team members having worked together for decades.

“Gary had a gift for personnel, he knew how to hire people who could share the vision, we have almost no turnover in the center. Low turnover tells you something, it tells you that you’re treated like a human being and the job is interesting and inspiring,” he said.

Keller’s impact on The College, ASU and the broader world is significant and will be remembered for years to come.

“There’s impact in his Chicano art books that will be in libraries forever, archival materials of a period no one else could or would do but we did it. There are many other authors that Gary found and published that probably wouldn't have been published otherwise, again living on in libraries and people’s homes,” Sullivan said.

“The biggest legacy is the people, the tens of thousands of students turned professionals. Every one of them is an infection agent, everything they benefited through our programs, they consciously or unconsciously will share with the people around them. This is a virtuous expansion, where each of them in turn helps somebody else. That can’t be taken away and is a lasting impact that will be generational.”

Kimberly Koerth of the School of International Letters and Cultures contributed to this article.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences