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MORGANTOWN, WV -

Fred R. Butcher, vice president for planning and operations at the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, has announced he'll retire this summer after more than three decades as a leader with the center.

Butcher, a biochemist and cancer researcher, was recruited to the WVU School of Medicine from Rhode Island's Brown University in 1978. 

He served as a professor and later chairman in the Department of Biochemistry until 1984, when he was appointed associate dean for research and graduate studies. In that role, he was among the leaders of the group that led to the development of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

Among his other roles at WVU, Butcher has served as the senior associate vice president for health sciences, associate dean of the School of Medicine, and as interim executive director of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute during its formation.

Since 2009, he has served as vice president for planning and operations for the Health Sciences Center, responsible for campus-wide academic affairs and the planning, design, construction and maintenance of facilities across all three campuses. 

His most recent accomplishment: Overseeing a $20 million state-of-the-art vivarium at HSC. He also was the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health grant to fund the project.

Butcher earned his doctorate in biochemistry at Ohio State University and completed fellowships at McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin and at the U.S. Public Health Service.

In other news at WVU, Jacqueline Speir has been awarded some $389,000 in grant funds to conduct research on the validity of forensic footwear evidence.

Speir, an assistant professor in WVU's Forensic and Investigative Science Program, will lead a team in studying the "discrimination potential" of shoeprint evidence. She will collect, characterize and compare randomly acquired accidental characteristics such as tears, nicks, and other forms of damage that result from wear on the outsoles of hundreds of shoes.

The data will provide insights into how well footwear impressions deposited at crime scenes can be linked to a suspect.

Speir's research group, funded over the next two-and-a-half years, will objectively evaluate the similarity of accidental patterns present on shoes and those imparted to impressions left during the commission of a crime, as well as between impressions collected from different donors.

Speir joined WVU's forensic program in August of 2012. She holds a Ph.D. from New York's Rochester Institute of Technology.