Fond memories prompt foresight

Generations of Berkeley students recall the animated anatomy lectures by Professor Marian Diamond ’48, M.A. ’49, Ph.D. ’53, during which she filled multiple chalkboards with colorful drawings or hoisted a human brain from a hatbox. Ron Hammer ’74 remembers instead how she sparked his enduring interest in neurobiology and mentored him as a student researcher in her lab. Now Hammer has generously returned the favor by extending Diamond’s academic legacy.

Photo of Professor Diamond in a lab coat holding a model of a brain.

Professor Marian Diamond ’48, M.A. ’49, Ph.D. ’53. Photo: Elena Zhukova.

A professor at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, Hammer and his spouse, geriatric neuropsychiatrist Sandra Jacobson, recently established an endowed fund for the Marian C. Diamond and Arnold B. Scheibel Chair in Neuroscience. The faculty position jointly honors Diamond, who died in 2017, and her husband, a neuroscientist at UCLA, where Hammer earned his Ph.D. in anatomy.

“Marian and Arnie have meant a great deal to me, inspiring my career as a scientist. For years, I have wanted to offer them a lasting tribute,” says Hammer.

Diamond devoted 60 years to probing the mysteries of the human brain, which she described as “the most magnificent structure” in a recent documentary about her. Diamond demonstrated experimentally that an enriched environment causes measurable changes in brain structure, including a thicker cortex and longer, more numerous dendrites, the extensions of a neuron that receive electrochemical signals.

Having enriched the intellectual environments for so many students, Professors Diamond and Scheibel can continue to encourage future brain scientists through this eponymous endowment, which marks one of the first major gifts to Berkeley’s ambitious, interdisciplinary initiative to drive discovery around fundamental understanding of the human brain and mind.

Related stories