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A History of Princeton Day School in 12 Stories: Dr. Leon Rosenberg
A History of Princeton Day School in 12 Stories: Dr. Leon Rosenberg

Twelve senior members of Princeton Day School's faculty and staff are retiring. This profile of Upper School science teacher and scientist in residence Dr. Leon (Lee) Rosenberg is the sixth in our series on these long-serving and much beloved faculty and staff members. (The most recent profile is of 3rd grade teacher Betsy Rizza, which you can read here.)

Head of School Paul Stellato wrote in the most recent issue of the Journal, "Consider the impact of a group whose years of service on our campus reach into the hundreds, whose guidance, care, and direction have enriched the lives of thousands of students, parents, colleagues, and friends, and whose influence on the course and culture of our school can be measured in her unbridled prosperity, her national reputation, and her unwavering optimism." Here are stories of these esteemed members of our faculty and staff as told by their colleagues: Dr. Leon Rosenberg, by Dr. Carrie Norin, Upper School science teacher.

"When Dr. Leon Rosenberg stepped foot into Princeton Day School in the spring of 2014, it was not his first visit. His daughter, Alexa, had walked these halls over a decade ago, inspired by a faculty with whom he would soon be collaborating. That day, Lee was contemplating coming to PDS as the school's first scientist in residence. His tenure at Princeton University as a senior molecular biologist and professor was coming to a close and yet he was not ready to stop teaching. Armed with lectures recounting his distinguished body of research as well as an updated version of his Genes, Health, and Society class now tailored to high school students, he found a way to give back to his daughter's alma mater. That contribution alone would have been sufficient, however, in those four years, as testament to Lee's ambition and drive, he went above and beyond and was responsible for making significant improvements to the PDS science department.

We met that spring day in a small library conference room and chatted about biology and genetics, our teaching philosophies, and the PDS culture. We immediately hit it off; it was a great conversation and the beginning of a strong friendship. That fall, he began a new chapter of his career as scientist in residence at Princeton Day School. Lee demonstrated his talents in the classroom by sharing first-hand observations of his accomplished scientific career in the dynamic field of genetics. He and his students would have debates about the ethics of genetic testing, the facts about GMOs, and the potential consequences of gene editing. He quickly became known by the PDS community as he engaged students and faculty attending his lunch lectures with captivating stories of real children, real genetic disorders, and real scientific discovery.

Lee became a mentor to me. He supported me in my developing career at PDS, sharing advice and advocating for me. In turn, I was able to show him the ropes, help him navigate the gauntlet of PDS technology, and share some ideas about hands-on instruction. Lee and I both felt strongly about the direction of the science department and we had numerous conversations about interdisciplinary instruction, inquiry models of science education, and team teaching. In fact, we practiced what we preached by guest lecturing in each others' classes over the next few years.

When a sudden departure left the position of Science Department Chair open, Lee was the obvious choice for the interim replacement. At once, Lee had the opportunity to instill real change and stepped into his new role effortlessly. After all, leadership came naturally to him; he had served as Dean of the Yale University School of Medicine and as President of the Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Bristol Myers Squibb. Lee fought hard for the science department, understanding what was working well and what needed improvement. He made dramatic changes, bringing in accomplished teachers, and enabling us to discuss what drove us: our teaching philosophies and how to best educate students.

Perhaps Lee's most influential work at PDS was his recent spearheading of the interdisciplinary STEAM initiative. The STEAM committee was tasked with designing state-of-the-art curriculum as well as beautifully reimagined classrooms by which to further enhance the student experience at PDS. His team worked swiftly to offer exciting new courses, including robotics, engineering, and computer science. The fresh look of the center, as well as its substantive programming, speaks to Lee's passion of moving Princeton Day School into the future.

As Lee moves on to the next big thing, we at PDS are grateful that he shared his spark of enthusiasm and love of scientific discovery with us. Dr. Leon Rosenberg will be truly missed by his students, colleagues, and those who have not yet walked these halls of Princeton Day School, for his impact on our community will certainly be everlasting"