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From the Fall 2018 Edition of Discovery

In Pursuit of Excellence

Science Alum Debra Feakes Named Dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Indianapolis

The University of Indianapolis Campus

The University of Indianapolis Campus

Photo courtesy Univeristy of Indianapolis

During her USU graduate student years, alum Debra Feakes (PhD’91, Chemistry) not only pursued cutting-edge science, she gained a keen appreciation for teaching and leadership from her faculty advisor, Karen Morse.

“In addition to developing my skills as a scientist, Karen generated my passion for teaching and laid the foundations for my interest and pursuit of leadership positions,” says Feakes, who was recently named dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Indianapolis.

Debra A. Feakes, PhD

Debra A. Feakes, PhD

Photo courtesy UIndy

Feakes, who attended USU from 1986 to 1991, was Morse’s last graduate student at Utah State. Morse, who was chair of USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry when Feakes started at USU, served as the first female dean of USU’s College of Science, before becoming USU’s provost in 1989. Morse left the provost’s office in 1993, when she was named president of Western Washington University. After serving with distinction in that post for 15 years, Morse retired in 2008. With Morse’s mentorship, Feakes pursued research based on the preparation of boron-derivatives of biologically active compounds.

“We wanted to prepare derivatives of glyphosate, an herbicide commonly known by the brand name ‘Roundup,’ that would be more selective,” Feakes says. “We also prepared boron-containing derivatives of alpha-amino acids and amides that could potentially be used for boron neutron capture therapy.”

The non-invasive therapy, she explains, is a proposed method for combating metastatic melanoma, as well as glioblastoma multiforme, the type of aggressive brain cancer that claimed the life of Senator John McCain.

Following graduation from USU, Feakes served as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California at Los Angeles. Prior to joining UIndy, the tenured full professor was associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State University in San Marcos. She also served as interim associate director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.

In her new post, which began July 1 at UIndy, Feakes oversees nearly 150 faculty from undergraduate and graduate programs in 16 departments, as well as the R.B. Annis School of Engineering.

“I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to serve as dean and look forward to joining the dedicated faculty and staff, as we provide core knowledge to our students and advance the mission and goals of the university,” she says.

“Dr. Feakes brings to this role a reputation as a strategic and collaborative leader and an extensive record as a scholar, researcher, mentor and stellar teacher,” said Stephen Kolison, UIndy executive vice president and provost.

Feakes, who has authored and co-authored numerous peer- reviewed journal articles, was named a 2016 Piper Professor and a 2017 Regents Teacher, as well as a 2015-16 Presidential Fellow at Texas State.

Feakes, left, with mentor, Dr. Karen Morse, at USU during Feakes’ graduate school years.

Feakes, left, with mentor, Dr. Karen Morse, at USU during Feakes’ graduate school years.

Photo courtesy Debra Feakes

Reminiscing about her Utah State years, Feakes fondly remembers departmental picnics in Logan Canyon.

“It was a great time to interact with the faculty, staff and other students outside of our normal laboratory environments,” she says.

Her favorite spot on campus?

“I loved the amphitheater on Old Main Hill,” Feakes says. “At the time, I was dating another Aggie, who played in a band and we’d go to the amphitheater to listen to them play.”

And her favorite Aggie Ice Cream flavor?

“As I recall, it was Pecan Praline,” she says. “But, I love Aggie Ice Cream, so you can’t really go wrong with any flavor!”


By Mary-Ann Muffoletto

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