Biography of Prof. Maria Tomasz as of 2010
Maria Tomasz is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Hunter College, City University of New York. She was born in Szeged, Hungary in 1932. Her father, Ivan Okalyi, was a nationally prominent advocate and educator of cultivating fruit orchards and almond production in Hungary, uniquely suited for the country’s soils and climate. Maria grew up in Budapest. She received her undergraduate education in chemistry at Lorand Eotvos University in Budapest, obtaining a red-colored “Diploma of Chemistry of Highest Distinction” in 1956. She married Alexander Tomasz in the same year. After the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, she and her husband fled the country to Austria, then entered the US on January 1st, 1957 in Camp Kilmer, as Hungarian refugees, sponsored by the International Rescue Committee. They were helped by several American organizations to settle and find jobs in New York City.
Maria was accepted in Columbia’s doctoral program in Chemistry in 1959 and received her PhD in organic chemistry in 1962 at Columbia University, and spent a few years as postdoctoral fellow at New York University Medical School. She joined the Chemistry faculty at Hunter College in 1966. Her two children, Martin and Julie, were born in 1965 and 1968, respectively. Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1983 and she has since remarried to Richard Marshall, a director of an opera company in 1987. She has spent the rest of her professional career at Hunter where she has been named City University of New York Distinguished Professor in 1996. She has taught courses mostly in Biochemistry, and in 2002 she designed the Biochemistry major for the Chemistry Department, including creating a new laboratory course. Her research has focused on the molecular basis of the activity of cancer chemotherapeutic agents that target DNA covalently, and she has published more than 100 papers in this area. Her research has been supported by grants, mostly by the National Institutes of Health, amounting to several million dollars over the years. She retired from teaching in 2004, but closed her research laboratory only in 2008. Her honors include a MERIT Award by the National Cancer Institute, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invitational Fellowship, and she is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.