Career celebration for Gay Israel slated for April 21

Story by Tracy Kile Schwartz

Note from Barry Braun, head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science: The original intention of this event was to celebrate Dr. Gay Israel’s long and distinguished career at CSU with him in attendance. His passing on April 16 changes the mechanics, but not the spirit of that plan. We will still gather as a CSU family and honor his legacy with remembrances, stories, laughter, and tears. All who knew Gay well will intuitively understand that he would have expected us to “press on!” 

A celebration of the impressive career of Professor Gay Israel, former head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science, will take place Thursday, April 21, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. in the Cherokee Park Ballroom of the Lory Student Center.

Remarks are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Faculty, staff, alumni, community partners, friends and family are invited to attend to acknowledge Israel’s impact on CSU and the community through his career-long commitment to exercise medicine and the prevention of heart disease. RSVP by April 14 either online or by phone to the Office of CSU Events at (877) 498-7787.Click here to visit his Legacies Project web page to watch videos and learn more about his outstanding contributions.

Israel and his wife, Karan
Israel and his wife, Karan

Israel, who was HES department head for 18 years, has been a transformational leader, building the department into a model that is respected nationally for outstanding research, teaching and service. Israel and his wife, Karan, have been engaged partners with the department, College of Health and Human Sciences and Colorado State University throughout their time in Fort Collins.

Came from ECU

Israel came to Colorado State University in 1996 from East Carolina University, where he was professor and the founder of the Human Performance Laboratory. Notably, in 2008, he was recognized as a “Centennial Leader” at East Carolina, joining a very short list of faculty whose influence on ECU’s first century merited distinction.

The same commitment to excellence has marked his tenure at CSU; his clear vision for the teaching, research and outreach programs has been instrumental in overseeing a shift from an emphasis on sports and physical education, to health, wellness and disease prevention. One of his greatest achievements in the research area is building the state-of-the-art Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory with a combination of $5 million in private and university funds. The lab, built in three phases and in current planning for a fourth, is considered one of the jewels of the CSU campus.

In addition, he championed a department name change to emphasize health and spearheaded the creation of a Ph.D. program in human bioenergetics – one of only a handful in the country. Under his leadership, annual research expenditures have climbed from less than $50,000 in 1996 to a peak of more than $2 million annually, with key funders such as NIH and other agencies supporting faculty research. The lab also maintains a prestigious Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence distinction from CSU.

Outreach activity

In the outreach area, Israel founded the Heart Disease Prevention Program to assess known risk factors for cardiovascular disease in individuals, including a testing program offered to firefighters and other first responders. The Youth Sport Camps, which promote a healthy lifestyle to children, and the annual Homecoming Race have experienced rapid growth and are important outreach activities for the university. A hallmark of these programs is Israel’s ability to form relationships with physicians, health care providers, community partners and donors. Over the years, the popularity of health and exercise science has grown immensely, with more than 1,400 students in the major. Israel has supported an environment of academic rigor at all levels, hired 15 of the current full-time faculty members and several advisors and instructors.

Additionally, he secured funds in 2013 for the construction of a new teaching lab addition to the Moby complex. Israel passed the torch of department leadership to Barry Braun in 2014, and has remained very involved in raising support for department priorities.

In recognition of his scholarly work, which has been cited more than 2,500 times by his peers, he was one of only six people nationally to receive a 2015 Citation Award by the American College of Sports Medicine. He was presented with the Distinguished Faculty Award from the CSU Alumni Association in 2015. Israel was also selected as an honoree of the College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project, which gathers, archives and shares the personal and professional histories of former faculty and staff.

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