Two prominent Texas A&M University former students from the College of Science have earned selection by the college for its highest alumni honor, induction into its Academy of Distinguished Former Students.
Col. (Ret) Harry Kay Lesser Jr., Class of 1970, of Herndon, Va.; and Joel E. Richter, M.D., Class of 1971, of Tampa, Fla., will be recognized Thursday (Mar. 21) for their achievements and contributions to their professions, community and causes as part of the college’s Spring Recognition and Awards Dinner, to be held at Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station. The college also will recognize its current scholarship recipients along with all of the donors who have established new endowed gifts within the college’s five departments during the past year.
The Academy was established in 1996 to recognize Aggies who have brought honor to their alma mater and professions through outstanding leadership in mathematics, statistics, the sciences and medicine. Lesser and Richter join a prestigious list of 59 previous honorees distinguished for their merit and innovative achievements.
Lesser received his bachelor of science in physics in 1970 and his master of engineering in electrical engineering in 1979, both from Texas A&M. As an undergraduate, he was in the Corps of Cadets, where he commanded 4th Battalion and was a member of the Ross Volunteers and RV Firing Squad before subsequently being commissioned into the Military Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army. While at Texas A&M, he also was chairman of the Student Conference on National Affairs. Harry Kay served 26 years in the Army and for the nearly 23 years since has continued his work in the intelligence, technology development and national security fields. He is a demonstrated, respected expert and leader in information-gathering and intelligence, electronic warfare, strategic planning and development of new technologies.
Lesser’s management leadership in both the military and the private sector put him at the highest echelons of our nation’s preparedness for both offensive and defensive technologies, plus the development of strategic and operational planning methodology and execution. He commanded units at company and battalion level, served as the senior intelligence officer in major tactical units, and completed his active military career as the Director of Science and Technology for lntelligence/G-2 at Headquarters, Department of the Army. Among his awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Senior Parachutist Badge. In the private sector, he continued his national security work with Booz-Allen Hamilton, the Boeing Company, and Lockheed Martin.
Lesser’s educational experience expanded beyond Texas A&M. Beginning with the Postgraduate Intelligence Program at the Defense Intelligence School, he continued with the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, a master’s of arts in national security and strategy studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and the Executive Program in Intelligence and Policy at Harvard University. As an adjunct professor, he taught a Cyberterrorism and National Security graduate course for three years at George Washington University. Also, as an instructor at the Defense Leadership and Management Program, he provided lectures on the revolution in military affairs, net assessments, joint-planning processes, and intelligence community organizations and processes. Lesser continues active work through his consulting company, Decide-Detect-Deliver, LLC, and is utilized by our national defense and security organizations through work as an appointed consultant with the Army Science Board (senior scientific advisory body to the U.S. Army) and his work with corporations in the defense industry.
“I have known Harry Kay since he was a student in the Department of Physics at Texas A&M University in the 1970s,” said Dr. Thomas W. Adair III, professor emeritus of physics and a former head of Texas A&M Physics (1994-2001) who also taught Lesser as an undergraduate. “Harry Kay was an outstanding student in every way. I was impressed greatly with his intelligence, hard work and leadership ability. I thought at the time he had an outstanding career ahead of him. I think there is no doubt that he has fulfilled my predictions.
“What he has accomplished after graduation is outstanding. He served our country extremely well in the military for many years. After that, he has had an outstanding career in industry involved with national security and defense as well as engineering projects in important industries. He has been a leader across the board for many years and is very deserving of being named a distinguished former student of the Texas A&M College of Science.”
Richter received his bachelor of science in zoology from Texas A&M in 1970 and Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1975, both with high honors. A veteran of the United States Navy (1975-1982), he completed his internship at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia, then went on to complete his residency in medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Since 2011, Richter has served as the Hugh Culverhouse Endowed Chair and Professor of Esophagology, director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, and director of the Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.
Richter has dedicated his academic career to taking care of patients with complex swallowing and esophageal diseases, educating medical professionals about these diseases and performing clinical research. In the latter area, he has published more than 300 original research reports in peer-reviewed journals, in addition to 121 editorials or reviews, 11 books and 109 book chapters. He is recognized internationally as an expert in diseases of the esophagus and is especially well known for his research in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal motility disorders, achalasia, and non-cardiac chest pain. His numerous seminal reports on the therapy of GERD alone has strongly influenced the practice of medicine in the United States and abroad. Richter has delivered lectures and conducted workshops both nationally and internationally on endoscopic techniques related to the esophagus.
Among his past academic appointments, Richter was chairman of the Department of Gastroenterology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation-Ohio for 10 years as well as chairman of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia for seven years. A past president of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) from 1994 to 1995, he also served as director of the ACG Institute for Clinical Research and Education from 1995 to 2004. An elected member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (2007), Richter has received several awards for his work in digestive diseases, including the ACG’s Berk/Fise Lifetime Clinical Achievement Award (2007), the Joseph B. Kirsner Award in Gastroenterology (2000), the Janssen Award in Gastroenterology for Clinical Research in Digestive Diseases (2001), and The Samuel Weiss Award for Outstanding Service to the ACG (2001). From 2002 to 2003, Richter served as president of the World Organization for Specialized Studies on Diseases of the Esophagus. He was co-editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Gastroenterology from 2003 to 2009 and has been listed in Best Doctors in America for Gastroenterology multiple times.
“Academically, Joel is the perfect example of a ‘triple threat,’ excelling as a clinical investigator, a world-class educator and a go-to clinician,” said Dr. Donald O. Castell, professor of medicine and director of the Esophageal Disorders Program within the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Medicine. “But he is also a very capable administrator who regularly finds the way back to his true love; i.e., patient care.
“It was my good fortune to work with Dr. Richter for 14 years as mentor, chief and partner and to watch his reputation grow as an international expert. Many times in recent years, I have gone out of my way to hear him lecture on a subject I know very well. It is always time well spent. A&M is so fortunate to have started his exceptional career.”
Members of the Academy receive a commemorative award and have their names inscribed on a perpetual plaque in the College of Science’s Dean’s Office.
For more information on the Academy and its previous inductees, visit https://science.tamu.edu/giving/adfs/.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or [email protected]