The SOT Council and the Endowment Fund Board greatly appreciate the financial and other contributions made by the membership. Congratulations to Dan and Pat Acosta for their dedication to the Society and for achieving Visionary status through their financial support of endowed funds that provide awards to support diversity student programs. I spoke with Dr. Acosta about his family’s contributions to aid students of various backgrounds and why they chose to help.
“Everybody should have an equal chance. People should be rewarded on their merit. At times, there may need to be extra help to some people to help them get along. The SOT Diversity Student Fund under my name and my wife’s name was established because we felt strongly that we wanted to help students of diversity and help them get through,” says SOT Past President Daniel Acosta Jr., PhD, in reference to the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund.
A desire to help students was ignited back when Dr. Acosta was a student himself. “When I started high school, I was always interested in the sciences—chemistry, biology, mathematics. As I got into college, I thought, ‘What’s the best way of using my interest in the sciences to develop a career?’”
This led Dr. Acosta to pharmacology and eventually toxicology, but for a child from a working-class background, financing his educational dreams was difficult. “It was hard. I had to work all the way through high school and college. We didn’t have that much money for tuition and living expenses. I never got advice until later in my life that I was making good grades and should apply [for a scholarship]. I received a couple of scholarships that helped me to get through school,” he recalls.
Dr. Acosta was the first of his family to receive a college degree, and he went on to a successful career in academia as a professor, researcher, and administrator. During this time, he became invested in supporting the next generation of scientists: “Half of my career I was a professor, a scientist, a researcher, and an educator working directly with students, and I really loved that—the fact that you work one on one, especially with graduate students, and see how they mature and develop their own careers over a four- or five-year period.” Dr. Acosta, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, estimates that about 60% of his students were from an ethnic, gender, racial, or social minority background, which was part of the inspiration for his wife’s and his support of diverse students.
Founded in 2012, the Daniel and Patricia Acosta Diversity Student Fund is used to provide support for the Society of Toxicology’s diversity programs, at the discretion of the SOT Council. “It’s been going toward different types of activities,” he shares. “I think that’s good. We felt SOT should see where there is a need, and then they could use those earnings to meet that need. We wanted to help SOT in activities that would promote diversity and to use their judgment where the funds could best be used.”
In 2018, Dr. and Mrs. Acosta became Paracelsus Circle Visionaries based on their lifetime of contributions to the SOT Endowment Fund. “I would encourage all our SOT members to think about what they’d like to do, what it is you like to do in toxicology … whatever you like best, think about how you can improve in that particular area and how financial contributions will assist in perhaps promoting your own cause. Think about giving back to the organization to make it a better organization.”
Giving back, though, doesn’t always have to take the form of a monetary donation—and it may be just as big a benefit to you as it is to the organization you are supporting, according to Dr. Acosta, who, early in his career, volunteered at SOT annual meetings because he didn’t know anyone at the meetings. “I volunteered to do the slide carousels,” he remembers. “Once in a while, they would say, ‘Can you pick up a speaker at the airport?’ I volunteered to be on committees. SOT gave me the opportunity to become more active. I was not that extroverted, so I realized I had to be more open and meet people. I forced myself to do that.”
Dr. Acosta believes that it is important to give back to help your passions succeed. “If an SOT member has a particular interest—whether it be research, students, the profession, some other aspect—there are things that you can do in that area to promote the Society,” he says. “I would encourage people besides giving financial gifts to really think about how they can help SOT grow and develop.”
For Dr. and Mrs. Acosta, this means backing a robust diversity student program through donations to the SOT Endowment Fund. On behalf of the SOT Endowment Fund Board, I thank them for their generosity, trust, and help in supporting toxicologists of the future.
Daniel Acosta Jr., PhD, received his BS in pharmacy in 1968 from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin. He finished his PhD in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Kansas College of Pharmacy in 1974. Dr. Acosta served in the US Army as a hospital pharmacist (1968–1970) in both Georgia and South Korea. After his military service, he served as professor of pharmacology and toxicology at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy (1974–1996), while he concurrently served as the university’s director of the toxicology graduate program (1986–1996). In 1996, Dr. Acosta became dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati, where he served until 2011. He assumed the roles of dean emeritus and professor at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati between 2012 and 2014. In 2014, he was named deputy director for research at the US Food and Drug Administration National Center for Toxicological Research.
Dr. Acosta has received a wide array of honors. He was a Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar from 1986 to 1991. He served as president of the Society of Toxicology in 2000–2001 and the president of the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX) from 2010 to 2013. He was a fellow at the Academy of Toxicological Sciences in 2006 and was awarded the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation Prize in In Vitro Toxicology. He received the SOT Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award in 2005, as well as the Foundation Award in Excellence in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the PhRMA Foundation in 2007. In 2016, Dr. Acosta was recognized by the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy as a William J. Sheffield Outstanding Alumnus Honoree.