Created by on 05/29/2012

On May 17th, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) honored Frank Martin Cushing with the Federation’s 2012 Public Service Award. A dear friend and colleague, Mr. Cushing died in February after a heroic battle with brain cancer. He had been a consultant to FASEB and its member societies since 2008, following a distinguished career on Capitol Hill, where he served as the Clerk and Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee, only the 12th person to hold that esteemed position since the committee was established in 1865.
The FASEB Public Service Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to biological and medical research through their work in government, public affairs, journalism, science policy, or related fields. Presenting the award to Frank’s mother Elizabeth, his wife Amy, his children Amy Catherine and Nathaniel, and his nephew William, FASEB President Joseph C. LaManna, PhD, said, “We are honored that you could be here with us today. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology would like to express our appreciation for the many outstanding contributions that your husband and father made to our organization and to the advancement of biomedical research by selecting him as the recipient of our 2012 Public Service Award.”
In his career in the U.S. Congress, as a staff member on both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Frank Cushing helped to shape the legislation that funded research all across the country. The support given to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health enabled researchers to make discoveries that changed the lives of millions of people. As an advocate, his passionate, insightful, and respected voice on behalf of this nation’s research enterprise helped continue the nation’s investment in science and technology, even at a time of fiscal austerity.
Reflecting on his work with FASEB, Dr. LaManna noted that Frank was an invaluable advisor and teacher. “The Friday morning public affairs staff meetings were enriched by his knowledge, his experience, and his example. For FASEB and member society staff, it was the highpoint of the week. On Board conference calls and at our meetings, he helped us understand how spending bills were created, and taught us how to make our case for the ideals and values we shared,” commented LaManna. 
Frank Cushing was also a staunch supporter of biomedical research, and in his final days continued to advocate for research and other causes that he believed in deeply. Struggling bravely against the ravages of his disease, he recognized his new limitations, but never displayed a sign of bitterness or regret. His dedication, devotion, and strength continue to be inspiring to all who knew him. “He touched many lives with his work. Those of us fortunate enough to have worked with him will cherish his memory and strive to live up to his example of courage, fairness, generosity, and public service,” Dr. LaManna said before presenting a crystal statute and plaque containing the award citation to Frank’s wife Amy Hammer, who accepted on behalf of the Cushing family. Ms. Hammer’s acceptance remarks are included in their entirety below.

 (From left to right).William Cushing, Amy Catherine Cushing, Nathaniel Cushing, Amy Hammer, Dr. Joseph C. LaManna, and Elizabeth Cushing (front row) at the presentation of the 2012 FASEB Public Service Award.


Acceptance Comments on Behalf of Frank Martin Cushing for the 2012 FASEB Public Service Award Presentation
May 17, 2012
Thank you, all members of the FASEB Board. I thank you on behalf of Frank’s mother Elizabeth who is proudly here with us today; on behalf of my beautiful daughter Amy Catherine, my agricultural science major; and my handsome son Nate who will graduate from McLean High School next month. My nephew Bill is here representing Frank’s brother’s family.
Public service was what my precious Frank was all about. He got his degree in political science at the University of Idaho, where he also completed graduate work in public administration. But it became a hands-on craft when he came to D.C. in 1977 as an Agriculture Legislative Assistant for the late Senator Jim McClure of Idaho.   That path would eventually show him to “follow the money” when he moved over to Senate Appropriations Committee and then to be staff director of Senate Energy. He then moved to the House, first as staff director of the then VA-Hud Subcommittee, which had jurisdiction over many of the science entities, and, ultimately, to be staff director of the full House Appropriations Committee, where even The Constitution of the United States says that ALL revenue bills must begin.
Frank didn’t “follow the money” for himself. He tried to make sure the dollars appeared for things that were important to this country. What was important to him? He made sure our fallen were honored properly through the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. In March, a month after his death, I got to see the museum in Normandy, France, of which Frank was so proud. He knew that freedom wasn’t free.
He also made a special place in his heart and his brain for the sciences… for the National Institute of Health, for the National Science Foundation, for funding for research in Antarctica. You think you know the person you are married to… then they surprise you.
When he retired from the Hill three years ago… and I point out that he retired from public service from the Hill for the THIRD time… I sort of expected to see him talking to defense contractors, big energy companies… oh, I don’t know who. Then he started talking about one group that was to be his first client off the Hill this time, this FASEB, this group of experimental biologists. What’s a FASEB? And then there were big research universities, and marine laboratories and ocean scientists, and science consortia and science start-up companies. It became very clear to me very quickly that Frank Cushing had found a way to remain a policy wonk. Even in the private sector, he needed to be doing something for the public good… and for him science research filled that niche.
Ironically, we were going to desperately need the investment that he had helped this country make in NIH while he was on the Hill. This group probably understood much more quickly even than we did just how vicious and powerful the glioblastoma that Frank battled actually was when he told you about it. I thank Dr. Howard Fine and his team at NIH. They were able to give us a few extra months in our futile battle. We got to celebrate our 25th anniversary with friends. We got to take a wonderful family trip to Italy. He got to attend Amy Cat’s graduation from Texas Tech. We had some time to say our goodbyes.
And even when he had long ceased going to the office, he would say, “Is this my Friday FASEB meeting? Is Meg going to pick me up?” He loved this brilliant group of gentle, quiet giants in their fields who were trying to solve so many scientific mysteries. Frank never thought of himself as smart. He was a quiet listener, and his goal as a staff director, as he always said, was to hire people that were smarter than he was. In his own way, that’s the same theory he took into private practice when he left the Hill. He got himself hired by people smarter than he was, brilliant scientists like those sitting before me, who hopefully will find more and more keys to the magic kingdom this side of heaven.
All cancers are evil, but this monster in his brain was a particular beast. It took the words from his mouth, the thoughts from his mind, and occasionally little pieces of his soul. But knowing Frank, I’m sure he is looking down on us today saying, “What’s all this fuss about? Meg, just get going with Howard and get those appropriations and outlays fixed, and do something about this blasted sequester for these folks.”
And that’s just what you need to do. I worked for brilliant engineers for 30 years who think like brilliant scientists… they think logically… and rightfully think that political scientists are sometimes crazy. Some days you are oh so right. But, the dialogue and the understanding of one another must stay open if we are to advance your scientific cause. Frank would tell you that is a must. So for him, for yourselves and for every other family that stands to lose a loved one too early to whatever disease is out there, keep doing what you do so well… and, please, do it quickly.
And, finally, Frank would always say, keep the dialogue open and always keep the discourse civil. We thank you again for honoring Frank Martin Cushing, the best man we’ve ever known.
Amy Hammer, Amy Catherine Cushing, Nathaniel Cushing and Elizabeth Cushing