NBA dreams fade, but painting helps renew artist's life

January 26, 2012

Vernon Burt dreamed of having an NBA career. But like his oil paintings, his life has taken on many layers.

Burt's presentation of “Race, Politics and Art” takes place on 6:30 p.m., Feb. 16, at the Nursing Innovation Building Two, 550 N. Third St., Phoenix, Innovation Auditorium, room 110. The lecture commences this year's spring 2012 Humanities Lecture Series, a part of the ASU Project Humanities and coincides with Black History Month. It is free and open to the public. Vernon Burt Download Full Image

“Art has always been a part of humanity and race simply gives it a different viewpoint,” Burt said. “My life experiences have always been very eclectic and it reflects in my work.”

Burt, who grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, was a star guard at Benedictine High School and pinned all of his hopes on becoming a professional basketball player. While at the late "Pistol" Pete Maravich basketball camp in Pennsylvania, Burt was singled out by the legendary college and NBA player.

"I was fortunate enough to not only meet my idol but to develop a close personal relationship with him," he said. "Pete always said I should have something to fall back on after basketball is over."

Those dreams were dashed when he discovered his abilities weren't good enough for the pro ranks, and he left California State College before the start of his sophomore year. He grew depressed over the next few years and the disappointment fueled his alcohol consumption, which became full blown when he entered the Cleveland Heights Police Department in 1979.

After 10 years on the police force, Burt was promoted to homicide detective where he excelled despite losing his battle with the bottle. Burt finally decided to get help and through a 12-step recovery program, he turned his life around. Burt quit his job, got married, and decided on a fresh start. He and his bride pulled out a map of the country, placed it on a coffee table, and pitched pennies where it might be interesting to live. The last penny landed on Phoenix, and the two found a home in Gilbert.

Burt and his wife Francisca found employment, but he said his life lacked a certain passion. That is, until his wife suggested he rekindle his love for painting. While on the police force, Burt had studied art for a few years at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Then the words of his idol came back to him.

"It hit me – painting is what I should be doing," he said. "That was the one thing I should fall back on because it made me happy."

Burt specializes in oil, airbrush, and acrylic paintings and has made a name for himself in local art circles for his work on Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen, and black cowboys. His work has been displayed in several valley art galleries and sells for up to $1,000 a painting.

Reporter , ASU Now


Systems biology innovator to present seminar at ASU

January 26, 2012

Seminar will be live streamed at

Leroy Hood, a pioneer in the systems approach to biology and medicine, will present a seminar Jan. 30 at Arizona State University. Hood’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the auditorium of the Biodesign Institute at ASU, 727 E. Tyler St., Tempe. Leroy Hood, president and co-founder, Institute for Systems Biology Download Full Image

Hood, who has a medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a doctorate in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology, is president and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. His research has focused on the study of molecular immunology, biotechnology and genomics.

The title of his talk is “Systems Biology Approaches to Biology and Disease and the Emergence of Proactive P4 Medicine.” It is part of a 2012 seminar series sponsored by ASU’s Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative and the Biodesign Institute.

Hood’s professional career began at Caltech, where he and his colleagues developed the DNA gene sequencer and synthesizer and the protein synthesizer and sequencer – four instruments that paved the way for the successful mapping of the human genome and lead to him receiving the 2011 Fritz J. and Delores H. Russ Prize awarded by the Academy of Engineering for automating DNA sequencing that revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science.

A pillar in the biotechnology field, Hood has played a role in founding more than 14 biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Darwin, The Accelerator, and Integrated Diagnostics.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. Of the more than 6,000 scientists worldwide who belong to one or more of these academies, Hood is one of only 15 people elected to all three. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Hood’s work has been widely published, and he has coauthored numerous textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology and genetics, as well as a popular book on the human genome project, “The Code of Codes.”

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lasker Award, Kyoto Prize and Heinz Award in Technology. In addition to having received 17 honorary degrees from prestigious universities in the U.S. and abroad, Hood has published more than 700 peer reviewed articles and currently holds 30 patents.

Additional information, including a map with the seminar’s location, is at