Nonprofit leaders in science, anthropology to be honored

Honorary degree recipients Jeffrey Trent and Robert Breunig

Northern Arizona University will award honorary degrees to a scientist seeking medical advances and an anthropology professor turned nonprofit leader during its fall commencement ceremonies Dec. 19 at the NAU Skydome in Flagstaff.

Jeffrey Trent

Jeffrey M. Trent, founder, president and scientific director at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, will earn an honorary degree during the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Trent earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona. He has held many high-level roles in public and private institutions, including chief of the Cancer Genetics Branch and scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, both under the National Institutes of Health. Trent currently serves as director of board for the American Association for Cancer Research and the Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center and is a scientific adviser for MedTrust Online.

Trent founded TGen in 2002 with the mission to transform genetic research into breakthroughs in medicine. His lab’s work focuses on human susceptibility to prostate cancer and genetic changes due to cancer predisposition and progression, while research throughout TGen seeks the genetic causes for numerous diseases to improve detection, intervention and treatment. Trent was pivotal in bringing opportunities in genomics and genetics research to Flagstaff with the opening of TGen North and the partnership that created NAU’s Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics.

Robert Breunig

Robert Glass Breunig, president and chief executive officer for the Museum of Northern Arizona, will receive an honorary degree during the 3 p.m. ceremony.

Breunig stepped into the leadership role at the Museum of Northern Arizona in 2003 from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. He previously had served as the museum’s educator and curator from 1975 to 1982, and was an anthropology professor at NAU.

Since returning to the Museum of Northern Arizona, Breunig has guided the organization to regain accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, construct the LEED platinum Easton Collection Center that houses more than 250,000 objects and has secured more than $2 million in grants from federal agencies and foundations.

A member of the Flagstaff Forty, commissioner on the Arizona Commission on the Arts and past president of the Flagstaff Rotary Club, Breunig has a long history of service to the community through several boards and professional organizations. President George Bush appointed Breunig in 1991 to the National Museum and Library Services Board, the governing entity of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He was re-appointed to the board in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, a role he continued in until 2002.

Breunig earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and a doctoral degree from the University of Kansas.