Monday, January 07, 2013
Queen’s Honor Came as Surprise to Westporter
By James Lomuscio
Westporter Alan G. Walton said it came as a complete surprise to him that that he was even nominated, let alone be among those chosen to receive one of the highest honors from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Alan Walton: “No idea I was even nominated.” Contributed photo
“Absolutely, I had no idea I was even nominated,” said the 76-year-old, recently retired founder of Oxford Bioscience Partners.
On Dec. 4 Walton, a Westport resident since 2000 and who holds dual British and U.S. citizenship, was among 75 to be dubbed Officer of the Most Excellent Order for his work on gene analysis to identify susceptibility to different types of cancer. The award, started in 1917 by King George V to honor chivalry, was pinned to Walton’s lapel by the Queen, a ceremony comparable to knighthood.
“When I heard about it, I joked, saying that if its not a knighthood, I’m not going to take it,” he said. “I was told if I had only been a British citizen, I probably would have gotten a knighthood for it.”
A naive of Birmingham, England, Walton came to the United States more than 50 years ago, he said. Holding three doctorates in chemistry, biological chemistry and law, Walton taught at Harvard Medical School, Case Western University, and Indiana University.
In 1980, he and his wife E.J., he said, settled in Weston, raising their four children, while he founded and worked on University Genetics. In 1993, that morphed into Oxford Bioscience, which he started in Stamford and later moved to Westport, where Walton also relocated.
Walton aIso served on the Carter Administration’s Science and Technology Advisory Committee, “and he said you have to get U.S. citizenship,” Walton recalled.
“We all went down to immigration office and the immigration officer asked me about the Supreme Court and asked me to name its members, and I think I got about four of them,” he recalled. “He said laughed and said most people could only get one.”
“It’s usually given to civil servants, and it’s rarely given to scientist,” Walton said about the Most Excellent Honor award. “Therefore, I was specifically surprised and honored.”