A blue atlas cedar tree, known for its pyramidal form and silvery blue foliage that drapes from expansive branches, was planted by the front entrance of the Laboratory of Epidemiology & Public Health this month to honor Paul D. Cleary, former dean of the Yale School of Public Health (2006-2017) and the Anna M. R. Lauder Professor of Public Health.
Cleary, Ph.D., will retire as a professor June 30, though he will remain at the school as a part-time research faculty member.
“I am deeply humbled by this gesture,” said Cleary. “This is a beautiful tree, and I look forward to watching its growth over the coming years as I continue my work at YSPH with amazing colleagues and support the growth of this incredible school.”
Current YSPH Dean, Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., said the evergreen, which is expected to grow up to 50 feet tall over the next 80 years, is “a fitting landmark and tribute” to Cleary’s leadership and tenacity.
The tree, one of the most popular evergreen conifers, also exemplifies Cleary’s personal ideals of environmental preservation. Among his many accomplishments during his tenure as dean, Cleary successfully transformed the school’s identity from a department within the Yale School of Medicine into an official school, raising its profile at Yale University and across the nation and world. He recruited many new and outstanding faculty members, including internationally known leaders for several of the school’s departments and built a robust development program to strengthen the school’s endowment to support faculty and students for generations to come.
“This Earth Day’s theme is Restore our Earth, so the school wanted to literally and symbolically mark Paul’s professional legacy in a manner that aligns with his nature,” Vermund said.
In addition to his work with YSPH, Cleary holds secondary positions as a professor of sociology and at the Institute for Social and Institute for Social and Policy Studies. He has also served as past director the Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA), which oversees more than 50 research and training grants and over 180 affiliated scientists and community members. Cleary has been involved in HIV/AIDS research for decades. He also currently directs one of the national Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems projects.