While at SHS, Lenore Witchey-Lakshmanan ’79 was a standout both inside — honors graduate — and outside the classroom where she was a trombonist in the Whippet band, a member of the Choir, Chamber Ensemble, Drama Club and Whippet Theater. She also was president of the Latin Club and the statewide Ohio Junior Classical League.
Leonore was driven to have the same influence as men in the business world. She took the opportunities offered at SHS and set her sights on an education in chemical engineering, a predominantly male field. She then earned both B.S. and M.S. degrees from Ohio State and a Ph.D. at North Carolina State University in 1988. Leonore knew she wanted to improve people’s lives as much as possible, so she followed in her father’s footsteps and entered the pharmaceutical industry. Her first opportunity to make medicines was at Merck Research Laboratories, where she participated in dosage form development for several types of products for veterinary medicine, including bio-erodible implants designed to dissolve in a year and some of the first topical, broad-spectrum anti-parasiticides for dogs and cats.
She continued her career in veterinary drug product development at Schering-Plough Research Institute, Leonore participated in developing long-acting, injectable formulations as well as orals and topicals for both food and companion animals. She then headed a human pharmaceutical group that specialized in protein/peptide, gene therapy and small molecule formulation development for cancers and human infectious diseases. Today, still in the pharmaceutical industry, she is Senior Director for Development at GeneraMedix Inc., where she focuses on developing and distributing difficult-to-manufacture sterile hospital products. In this position she also is an ambassador for America while conducting business in Turkey, India, China and other nations. Leonore has created several novel products, generated patents in many drug delivery areas, and has applied her experience to authoring papers, peer-reviewed journal articles and textbook chapters.
As her career progressed, Leonore remembered the importance of”paying forward.” While a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, she recognized the need for other women engineers to have a support system that encouraged them and provided recognition for their accomplishments. She co-founded and chaired the Women’s Initiative Committee, a vital part of motivating and mentoring women chemical engineers. She continues to pay forward by serving on planning and educational committees for other professional societies and universities. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio State, the Advisory Board of the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at FAMU-FSU, and the Advisory Board ofFoRWaRD, a non-profit organization focused on bringing water to global communities. (FoRWaRD was founded by Dr. Bruce Berdanier, SHS ’76.)
While at Ohio State, Leonore met and married Kris Lakshmanan who had moved to Ohio from Chennai, India to pursue graduate education. They have two children, Kristan (born in 1992) and Jason (born in 1996). Leonore has served for many years as Class Mom for each of her children’s classrooms, assisted with her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, and coached her son’s Little League team. Among her favorite activities is science outreach to the school system. For many years she has gone into classrooms to make scientific concepts approachable to elementary and middle school students. She uses creative and entertaining hands-on and visual techniques to teach students that science is part of everything they do. One of the kids’ favorite activities is learning about how polymers are so much a part of their everyday lives through making “slime”. Leonore smilingly admits to being known by students as the “Slime Lady.”
Says an alum, “She has spent her career developing medications to rid the world of disease. She has also spent her life reaching out to do just one more thing simply to make the world a better place wherever she has been.” Leonore lives in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Nominator: Leslie Webb Zehner ’78. Presenter: Jean Riley Lash ’50