Down to a science
George Delahunty Looks Back
George Delahunty likes to know how the world works—specifically, the world of physiology and endocrinology, which, basically, is the whole world to Delahunty. The professor, who retired after the spring 2018 semester, simply loves how the systems of the body work.
“I loved science, I loved biology; it was a natural interest that I was very happy to build on through all my education and teaching,” he said.
Delahunty grew up outside of Allentown, PA. He went to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh to study biology and then got his Ph.D. from Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is a career Gopher who started at the college in 1979, teaching biological sciences and retiring as the Lilian Welsh professor.
He never stopped circulating, though. Through sabbatical leaves, Delahunty worked in the diabetes branch of the National Institutes of Health and as a visiting associate professor in the department of gerontology at Johns Hopkins University.
He also co-founded Goucher’s post-baccalaureate premedical program just a few years after coming to the college. At the time, there were very few post-bac programs to prepare students for medical school; Goucher’s would be one of the first five. The faculty involved decided to model it after the program at Bryn Mawr. “We saw an opportunity to put together a program that would help our science enrollments and let us maintain the number of faculty we had,” he said.
Delahunty’s goal was to run a quality program that could add to Goucher’s reputation academically—and he did, remaining the academic head of the program for many years. Over the past decade, he said, the program has had a virtual 100 percent medical school acceptance rate. Part of the reason for that is the faculty has intentionally kept the program small and selective. “We take 32 students a year, and there’s no way we could handle more than that,” said Delahunty.
Expanding the program would tarnish its reputation, which could have significant repercussions. “Anybody who has a science program [today] has a post-bac program,” he said. “The competition for students is fierce, and once you lose that reputation, you’re done.” Even with the program’s small size, Delahunty estimates that he’s helped 800 to 900 students go on to medical school.
More recently, Delahunty took the lead in creating the public health minor at Goucher. “I saw an opportunity to generate student interest in public health, and there are lots of opportunities there for students,” he said. With three other professors, he worked to get it passed by the faculty. Within a year or two, he said, it was the most popular minor at the college.
His impact on the college is felt deeply by the community. At last year’s Alumnae/i Weekend, the Biology Program put on a special presentation for him in Kelley Lecture Hall. It was packed with students from every decade and science program. “It was very moving,” he said. “It was a very nice way to end my final year of teaching. The importance of having good people to work with really makes a big difference.”
For those wondering at the amount of change at Goucher recently, in the academic programs and the administration, Delahunty offers reassurance: “I’ve seen a lot of things in my 39 years at this institution. This too shall pass.”