Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Mohammed Abdul Quadeer Siddiqui (MS ’64, PhD ’67)

Dr. Mohammed Abdul Quadeer (MAQ) Siddiqui passed away on August 19, 2021 at home, surrounded by loved ones. He was 84 years old.

MAQ was born in Hyderabad, India and was the second oldest of fourteen siblings. As a young adult, he frequented the local United States Information Service (USIS) office where he voraciously read LIFE magazines and consumed information on life in America. He became fascinated with cowboy movies, the Beatles, and U.S. politics. It was also at the USIS library where MAQ first learned about DNA in a textbook, piquing his interest in the human body and biology.

After graduating from Osmania University with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, MAQ decided to pursue a career in scientific research – a decision that was met with hesitation as his family expected him to attend medical school. MAQ applied to multiple graduate programs in the United States and Canada and ultimately accepted an offer from the PhD program at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.

To help finance his travel to the United States, MAQ worked as a field clerk for the local municipality’s Department of Agriculture, a job that required him to visit rural farmers and convince them of the benefits of using chemical fertilizers. Generally weary of the wilderness, MAQ was not fond of trekking to remote areas with no electricity and ample wildlife.

MAQ departed for America in December 1960 aboard the Neptune cruise ship, where he was to work on board in return for discounted fare. However, MAQ had only packed formal dress clothes which were inappropriate for his assigned job of cleaning the pool deck. After seeing him play table tennis, MAQ’s supervisor offered him a position scheduling and managing table tennis matches among the guests, in addition to providing lessons.

The Neptune sailed from Cochin, India to Genoa, Italy after which MAQ took a train to Calais, France and crossed the English Channel by boat. In Dover, England, he was completely unprepared for the winter weather and spent extra shillings to turn on the heater in the bed and breakfast where he was staying. After two days, MAQ flew to New York and stayed at a YMCA near 34th street. He then traveled to Houston, Texas, arriving at his destination 33 days after leaving India.

In Houston, MAQ found work as a gas station attendant but was fired on his first day for not knowing how to pump gas in unfamiliar American cars. He then started running biological samples between collection sites and the laboratory at the University of Houston, before eventually getting hired as a research assistant within the University’s Department of Biology. MAQ dove into his studies and found his passion in molecular biology, concentrating his doctoral research on the mechanisms by which antibiotics inhibit protein synthesis. MAQ was awarded a PhD in Biological Sciences in 1967.

MAQ completed post-doctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley amongst an inspiring scientific community of renown researchers. In 1969, he accepted a position at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey where he rose to the rank of Full Member in the Department of Biochemistry. MAQ’s research at Roche focused on the role of small RNA in protein synthesis and other physiological functions. In 1975, his laboratory became the first to isolate and clone a cardiac muscle gene.

In 1987, MAQ was appointed as the Chairman and Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Under his leadership, the Department grew to include over 30 researchers and secure $5 million in annual funding from the National Institutes of Health. MAQ also served as the Director of SUNY Downstate’s Center for Cardiovascular and Muscle Research. MAQ and his team conducted novel research to understand the molecular signaling pathways related to myocardial hypertrophy. His work led to two patents and formed the basis for future discoveries into the causes of left ventricular dysfunction and congestive heart failure.

Throughout his career, MAQ worked alongside several notable figures including Nobel Laureates, Dr. Severo Ochoa and Dr. Robert Furchgott. MAQ published over 150 papers and multiple book chapters on his research, many of which have greatly influenced the field of molecular cardiology. He was invited to speak at conferences and symposia across the United States in addition to Canada, Chile, Venezuela, China, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, India, Czech Republic, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands.

MAQ was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2003. When commuting from New Jersey to Brooklyn was no longer an option, MAQ continued to work from home, mentoring students over the phone and via email. He retired from SUNY Downstate in 2014.

MAQ’s natural mentorship abilities extended to family and friends as well. He regularly sent money to his family in India, beginning from his time as a loan-assisted student at the University of Houston. One by one, he paid the way for each of his twelve siblings to receive an education and move to the United States. MAQ was a patient and open listener for anyone that came to him for professional or personal advice. He provided heartfelt guidance to numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

As a scientist, MAQ was keenly aware of the nature of a progressive condition like Parkinson’s Disease. He faced a degenerative diagnosis with dignity and fortitude, never once allowing it to become a crutch.

MAQ was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends from near and far, especially during the final years of his life. He will always be known as a brilliant, soft-spoken academic and avid tennis and cricket fan with a dry sense of humor and penchant for desserts. First and foremost, MAQ will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and dear friend.

MAQ is survived by his wife of 37 years, Samena Siddiqui; daughter and her husband, Norain and Montgomery; son and his wife, Umair and Flor; granddaughter, Serena; in addition to eight brothers, three sisters, and many nieces and nephews. MAQ is preceded in death by his parents, Mohammed and Quaderunissa; elder brother, Afzal; and younger brother, Akhlad.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thasunda Brown Duckett (’96)

TIAA — Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America — has announced that Thasunda Brown Duckett will become the company’s new CEO, succeeding Roger W. Ferguson Jr. who announced in November 2020 his plans to retire. With her appointment, Duckett will join newly named Walgreen’s CEO Rosalind Brewer as one of only two Black women heading Fortune 500 companies. TIAA ranked No. 9 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.

Duckett will join TIAA on May 1 from JPMorgan Chase, where she was CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, leading a “banking network with more than $600 billion in deposits, 4,900 branches and over 40,000 employees.” In that role, “she undertook Chase’s first major branch expansion in 10 years to add 400 new branches in 20 new markets over five years” — a strategy that is said to have reflected “her commitment to improving the lives of individual customers and local communities by providing more jobs, neighborhood resources and access to financial services.”

In announcing her appointment, TIAA celebrated her successful career and also paid special attention to Duckett’s longtime support of diversity and inclusion efforts.

“Ms. Duckett has been a tireless and purpose-driven champion for change,” TIAA said in a press release announcing her appointment. “She was the executive sponsor of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways program, an initiative aimed at helping Black Americans close historical achievement gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success. Ms. Duckett also sat on the steering committee for the bank’s Women on the Move initiative to help women advance their career and business opportunities, and she is committed to financial education for women, who account for a significant portion of the retirement investments TIAA stewards. Most recently, Ms. Duckett led Chase’s accelerated focus on communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and was the executive sponsor of the bank’s Fellowship Initiative, which offers young men of color academic and social support to help them achieve personal and professional success.”

Justin Baer of The Wall Street Journal wrote that Duckett “is leaving consumer-banking for a part of the financial world that is confronting many of the same challenges, albeit at a different stage. Technology and evolving customer tastes have driven down the costs of investing, squeezing money managers’ margins and forcing firms to consider mergers that give them the scale to compete.”

“Thasunda is widely recognized as an exceptionally dynamic and inspirational leader,” said Ronald L. Thompson, Chairman of the TIAA Board of Trustees. “She brings invaluable experience leading and growing large, complex businesses, setting and executing strategy, improving client experience and attracting and developing talent. Equally important, she is deeply mission-oriented, with values that reflect those of TIAA, including a passion for financial inclusion and empowerment.”

Following the announcement, Duckett reflected on her past and how it will guide her future, issuing a statement saying “I often think about the day my father asked me to help him plan his retirement, and I had to tell him, ‘Dad, your pension is not enough. Now, thanks to his work and sacrifices and the support of many others who have guided me throughout my life and career, I am blessed to join TIAA, which has paid out over $500 billion of lifetime income and other benefits since its founding in 1918. I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to lead a company that has helped millions of people retire with ‘enough’ to live in dignity and excited about the opportunity to help TIAA chart its next 100 years.”