Vagelos to Receive Pupin Medal

P. Roy Vagelos, former chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co., Inc., will receive the Pupin Medal Dec. 5 from Columbia, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and its Alumni Association.

Vagelos, who received his M.D. from Columbia in 1954, was cited by the Pupin committee "for his leadership in the pharmaceutical industry; for his many contributions to biological science and pharmaceutical research; for his role in helping to discover and produce medicines that extend and enhance life; for his tireless efforts to promote global health as a public service; and for his outstanding work as a teacher." This year, he has served as chairman of the board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

As a young researcher at the National Heart Institute, and later at Washington University, he made important contributions to understanding, at the molecular level, how the human body manufactures fats.

At Merck, he served as chief executive officer from 1985 to 1994 and as chairman of the board from 1986 to 1994. During his tenure, the corporation expanded its philanthropic efforts, responding to medical needs and disaster relief around the world with more than $150 million in gifts and product donations. Columbia awarded the Lawrence A. Wien Prize in Corporate Social Responsibility to Merck in 1993.

Born in Westfield, N.J., Vagelos received the A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, he was named to Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society. After his internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., in 1956.

At age 37, he was appointed chairman of the department of biological chemistry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and later served as the university's director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Science. In 1975, Vagelos joined Merck as senior vice president of research.

The author of more than 100 scientific papers, Vagelos is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Columbia in 1990, along with numerous honorary degrees from universities across the country. He became chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1994, after serving as a trustee since 1988.

Vagelos will receive the Pupin Medal at a reception at 4:00 P.M. in the Dag Hammarskjold Lounge on the sixth floor of the International Affairs Building.

The Pupin Medal was created by the Columbia Engineering School Alumni Association in 1958, the centennial year of the birth of Michael I. Pupin (1858-1935), physicist, inventor and professor of electro-mechanics at Columbia from 1901 to 1931. Among his many inventions is the Pupin coil, which greatly lengthened the range of telephone communications.

Columbia University Record -- December 1, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 11