History of the Club

Brief History and Volume 5 of Proceedings
Recent Publication of a Book from our Mexico Meeting in 2007
Table of Contents of the Proceedings

Brief History

The Cajal Club was founded on April 3, 1947, at a meeting of the American Association of Anatomists (AAA). The founding members were notable neuroanatomists of their day and included W.J. Krieg (the moving force behind the Cajal Club), E.H. Craigie (a former student of Cajal and translator of Cajal’s Recollections), P.J. Harman, C.A. Fox, R. F. Becker, G.C. Clark, J.H. Graves, D.S. Jones, A.A. Pearson, D.C. Hetherington, A.V. Jensen, G.L. Rasmussen, C.M. Berry, and T.L. Peele. It is reported in the proceedings of the Cajal Club that Wendell J.S. Krieg (president for the first five years of the Cajal Club’s existence) went to this AAA meeting with the desire and intention of initiating an organization of neuroanatomists. It is significant to note that the original covenant of the Cajal Club specified that one of its main aims was to revere Cajal. Furthermore, the Cajal Club promoted friendly scientific discussions between neuroanatomists and continues to do so to this day with its annual scientific and social agendas.

From this small group of founders sprang many important scientific contributions, and the Cajal Club has grown to over 500 members throughout the world. Since its inception in 1947 to 2003, the Cajal Club met continuously with the AAA. In 2004 the Cajal Club switched its venue to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. In May 2001, the Cajal Club held its first international meeting at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain. This meeting was the first time the club met outside North America, and it should be noted that the title of the meeting was “Changing Views of Cajal’s Neuron.” A book based on the proceedings of this meeting was published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Cajal’s birth. The chapters in this book emphasize the importance of Cajal’s contributions and how current research indicates that his ideas are still relevant and essential for understanding brain function. Two subsequent International Meetings were held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2006 and Juriquilla, Queretaro, Mexico, in 2007.

The Cajal Club is unique in many other ways. All of the officers are named after parts of the neuron. For example, the president-elect is referred to as the Nissl Body, the president is the Nucleolus, and the past-president is the lipofuscin granule. Another notable feature of the Cajal Club is its link to Spain and Cajal’s life. Several of the club’s banquet speakers provided lectures over the years on topics ranging from “A Visit to Cajal’s Spain” to “The Zaragosa Period: An Early Portfolio.” It should be noted that the son of Cajal received an honorary lifetime membership certificate from the Cajal Club, and this certificate was observed in Cajal’s home in Madrid by several club officers who toured it in 2001. A final example of the Cajal Club’s unique character is the fact that in May 2001, the Cajal Club presented the King of Spain Don Juan Carlos I with a Cajal Medal (Krieg Achievement Award) and certificate for his enduring support for Cajal’s legacy by supporting the Cajal Institute (http://www.cajal.csic.es). It is indeed rare for any scientific organization to award royalty with medals. Thus, through its various activities, the Cajal Club will certainly continue to show its respect for the profoundly important contributions of Santiago Ramón y Cajal well into this new century.

The Kriegs established the Krieg Cortical Kudos in 1987. These awards are presented by the Cajal Club each year to neuroscientists at senior, intermediate, and beginning stages in their careers for outstanding research on the structure and connections of the cerebral cortex. The three levels are named Discoverer, Explorer, and Scholar, respectively. The list of the awardees is located below.

Volume 5 of the Proceedings:
Recollections of the Krieg Legacy
By David G. Whitlock, M.D., Ph.D.
Cajal Club Secretary /Treasurer (Apical Dendrite)
[David’s tenure in this office was from 1981 to 2001]

On June 14, 2009, Roberta Krieg, wife of Professor Wendell Krieg who had preceded her in death, passed away in Evanston, IL. In her will, she bequeathed to the Cajal Club a large sum of money to supplement the financial gifts she and her husband had given to the club over the years for the support of the Krieg Cortical Kudos. Since 1987 the Cajal Club has given these awards to honor scientists and students for outstanding research on the cerebral cortex. In addition, Krieg Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to distinguished individuals for their support of the neurosciences.

These awards had their origin in 1985 when Wendell Krieg, one of the founders and the first president of the Cajal Club, appeared after a 10-year absence at the Cajal Club meeting held with a joint gathering of the Canadian and American Associations of Anatomists in Toronto, Canada. At that meeting, professor Krieg cut a striking figure attired in a bold silver and black-striped sport coat, purple pants, and matching tie topped off by his massive mane of snow-white hair.

He told a few of us who he still knew after his long absence from Cajal Club meetings that he had come to present a plan to the membership. He stated that he wanted to give the proceeds from the forthcoming sale of his ocean-front property near Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to the Cajal Club to establish awards for students and scientists to recognize outstanding research contributions on the structure and connections of the cerebral cortex. After much discussion at this meeting and subsequent correspondence with Professor Krieg, his plan began to take shape.

During the summer of 1985, after the Toronto meeting, Wendell Krieg, acting as his own real estate broker, sold his Massachusetts property for $400,000 to a visiting scientist at the nearby Marine Biological Laboratory. Wendell structured the sale so that all of the $400,000 he received for his property eventually would be given to the Cajal Club in two ways. One arrangement, which was codified in a promissory note with the buyer, was for $200,000 of the total sale price to be paid in annual installments to the club over a ten year period. However, over the next several years and largely because of default by the buyer, a slightly lesser total amount of about $180,000 was eventually received by the club. That sum was used as the corpus of support for the Krieg awards.

Wendell placed the second half of the profit from the house sale, also a sum of $200,000, in a trust that he managed for the Cajal Club in an Evanston bank. He informed the membership that he planned to send the interest earned by that trust each year to the club to support the Krieg awards. Indeed, for about the next three years, he sent financial gifts to the Cajal Club about equal in amount to the interest that such a trust would have earned.

The Cajal Club then received correspondence from him indicating that their personal needs had unexpectedly increased. He asked the club for permission to allow the Kriegs to use the interest from the trust to meet these unanticipated expenses. The Cajal Club board of directors and the membership voted approval of his request and no further income or information on the Cajal Club trust were received until perhaps now.

Wendell told me that in the mid-1970s, when he retired from Northwestern University Medical School, he had about $80,000 in his retirement account and that he felt this amount was quite sufficient for them to live on in retirement. The fact that he later found that they needed more for their support, apparently including the interest from the Cajal Club trust fund, was not surprising. After he died in 1997, Roberta told me that she was uncertain how much money was left in their estate for her support and that only time would tell how much of it might be available for the Cajal Club in the future.

Some of the history on how the Krieg financial gifts were initially managed and structured for the Cajal Club is included here. Originally, the bylaws and structure for a Cajal Club Foundation Corporation to act as a charitable organization in order to receive and manage the Krieg gifts were to be drafted in 1985 by the Cajal Club archivist, Glen V. Russell, who had experience in creating such documents. However, just as he was about to start, Glen suddenly died. Several of his friends in Galveston where he lived included a distinguished attorney who had been a longtime associate of Glen and Jan Coggeshall, the wife of a local Cajal Club member, Dick Coggeshall, and a former mayor of Galveston as well as a senior partner in the local Merrill Lynch office. They offered to aid the club, pro bono, in drafting these documents. Through the combined efforts of those in Galveston and with the help of the University of Colorado Health Sciences attorneys in Denver, the bylaws, etc. were completed, voted on and approved by the Cajal Club membership. A Cajal Club Foundation was established and an application for a 501 (c) (3) IRS classification for the club was submitted and later approved.

From the beginning, Wendell had requested that their gifts be invested in conservative holdings for long-term preservation and not be used for risky but potentially profitable investments. I consulted with Jan Coggeshall about following these guidelines for the initial Krieg gifts. She recommended that treasury bonds and layered holdings would provide very good long-term security but probably modest income. Because she was a senior partner with the Galveston Office of Merrill Lynch and had a long track record for investments, including those that had allowed Galveston to flourish during her tenure as mayor, it was voted to invest the Krieg gifts with her in a Merrill Lynch account. As the money began to trickle in, it was invested in secure holdings that she recommended in a Krieg Merrill Lynch account.

The Krieg Cortical Kudos, commencing in 1987 and funded by the Kriegs’ gifts, have now honored many scientists and exceptional students who have contributed outstanding research on the cerebral cortex. Their names and the Krieg awards they received can be found on the Cajal Club web site. In addition, the names of other distinguished recipients of Krieg Lifetime Achievement Awards are listed.

Now, both the Kriegs have passed on. The monies they have given for the support of the Krieg Cortical Kudos and Lifetime Achievement Awards over the years together with the additional gift Roberta now has willed to the Cajal Club should provide substantial funds for their continuance. The exact amount of Roberta’s final bequest is not known at this time to the author, but it apparently may be around $200,000. If so, it seems reasonable to speculate that this sum might even be the principal of the Cajal Club trust Wendell established in 1985 for some of the funds received from the sale of their oceanfront property in Massachusetts. A tenacious preservation of assets and sequestration of their resources by Roberta over the past 24 years may have made possible this last very generous Krieg gift.

Finally, I see Roberta Krieg’s bequest as her way of completing the commitment made by Wendell for them back in 1985 to honor through the Cajal Club outstanding research contributions to the neurosciences. I salute these dear friends for the completion of that plan and for their foresight and generosity in establishing the Krieg awards. These awards should continue to bring honor and high recognition by the Cajal Club to many contributors to the neurosciences in the years ahead.

“From Development to Degeneration and Regeneration of the Nervous System” was published by Oxford University Press. The coeditors of this unique volume include: Charles E. Ribak, Carlos Arámburo de la Hoz, Edward G. Jones, Jorge A. Larriva Sahd, Larry W. Swanson. Several members of the Cajal Club have contributed to this volume to make it a reminder of the excellent International Meeting that was held in Mexico in 2007. This wonderfully crafted book serves to educate and expand upon three areas of research that were pioneered by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, development, degeneration and regeneration. Its text is engaging, thorough, richly illustrated, and shows that Cajal’s legacy is greatly appreciated by neuroscientists of today. A discount of 15% for this book is available for all Cajal Club members. Simply go to the OUR website – www.oup.com/us -- enter 27400 in the “Sales Promo Code” box, and you can have the volume at the special price of $76.08.