2022 Morley Science Medal recipient Dr. William E. Kraus ’73 shares words of wisdom in the Chapel
Laura Stropki

Dr. Kraus gave the WRA community the gift of his perspective, as varied as it is focused, and invited the audience to make the most of these formative years.

On Friday, Oct. 28, Western Reserve Academy welcomed Class of 1973’s Dr. William E. Kraus, recipient of the 2022 Morley Science Medal. 

From aliens to exercise to the next solar eclipse to climate change, if students weren’t fully awake upon entering the Chapel Friday morning, they were “woke” upon leaving. Dr. Kraus gave the WRA community the gift of his perspective, as varied as it is focused, and challenged the audience to use these formative years at WRA to wake up and grow up (although more invitation than demand). After all, our Morley Medal recipient borrows James Taylor’s words to remind us, “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” 

The Edward W. Morley Science Medal is bestowed to an alumnus/na who has made significant contributions to the scientific world, whether through a series of achievements, a remarkable career or significant advancement in the field of basic or applied science or to the application of science, technology, or engineering to the improvement of the human condition. The recipients are nominated by WRA community members and reviewed by the Morley Medal Committee. 

After checking off a few burning questions — Saturday classes? No. Morning Meetings? Yes, now two times per week instead of one. Is US still our biggest rival? Of course. Pioneers? Always. — Dr. Kraus painted a picture of what life at Reserve was like when he was a student. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the tumult roiling in 1969 amid the Vietnam war and associated draft to the turmoil we face today. “1969 to 1973 were seminal years in my life…and I hope at the end of the day I give you some encouragement as to how you can best spend your time here.” 

Dr. Kraus’ lifelong passions were ignited at WRA. Physics teacher Lou Turner inspired a love of astronomy, which triggered an interest in photography to capture that love of astronomy. Participation in cross country and track and field with coach Frank Longstreth piqued an interest in exercise science. And music, initially shared via the weekly Sunday Metropolitan Opera radio show by his parents, has always been central and only reinforced by friends like Ed Emma ’73, a pianist who performed with the Akron Symphony in Ellsworth Hall. Dr. Kraus’ trajectory and entire world view was shaped by his Reserve experience. He even married his wife Virginia in the Chapel in 1979! 

Graduating from Harvard with a degree in astrophysics at a time when the space race had slowed, Dr. Kraus fell back on another love: Exercise science. He and many talented scientists over the years studied the impact of exercise to develop targeted risk reduction strategies and recommendations. Perhaps first inspired by the 1972 Munich Olympics and the German muscle biopsy studies in relation to discovering which exercise best suited which athlete, Dr. Kraus and his team applied this same concept to the ability for muscles to take up glucose after a meal during their STRRIDE study. 

Over the course of nine months (and then revisiting and studying the same participants after ten years), the team monitored the impact of low dose moderate, low dose vigorous and high dose vigorous exercise to no exercise at all on sedentary, middle aged individuals. Like any successful experiment, there were even some surprises! This study proved that actually the brisk walking (low dose moderate) group maintained the greatest, long term health benefits. 

Because of this study and Dr. Kraus’ participation in a national panel, he helped set physical activity guidelines for Americans. They determined that to optimize health, individuals should aim to get 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Dr. Kraus suggests at least a 30 minute brisk walk per day, but an hour is even better. If you can jog, you can do half of that! He shared that steps are easy to target through apps on our phones. This study suggests 7,000 to 9,000 steps per day.

“Ask questions,” challenged Kraus. “Have epiphanies, explore and be inquisitive. The interest you develop here will carry you through the rest of your life.” Wake up, grow up and look up. “Exercise science is my job, but astronomy lights me up. Follow your heart.” Dr. Kraus shared a map of the next solar eclipse and sure enough, on April 8, 2024, about a month before our current junior class graduates, the total eclipse path cuts right through Hudson, Ohio! Perhaps our community will be as inspired as Dr. Kraus was when he traveled to North Carolina on March 7, 1970, and Oregon on August 21, 2017, to witness full solar eclipses. “It is the realization that there is something above and beyond us that is nature. It gives us a feeling of something bigger in life, bigger in the universe.”

Dr. Kraus couldn’t leave our community of big thinkers and future leaders without one final challenge. The earth is warming and we are in a climate spiral, he illustrated by sharing an animated graph charting the temperature increase since 1880. “It’s all about climate. It’s the issue of our time.” 

Whether we’re waking up, growing up, looking up and hopefully looking forward, we now have the experience of Dr. Kraus’ visit as a cornerstone. “We yearn in our innermost beings for what is true, what is good and what is beautiful. Use these metrics” so we all have the luxury to “enjoy the passage of time.”

An internationally recognized pioneer in preventative cardiology and lifestyle medicine, Dr. William E. Kraus is a professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Duke University Medical Center. He is also a professor in the School of Nursing and professor of biomedical engineering in the Pratt School of Engineering. He is a member of the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute and Duke Cancer Institute. A clinician-scientist, his research interests focus on the use of exercise for favorable mediation of cardiometabolic risk. Dr. Kraus graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 1973.