2008 Distinguished Alumnus
Steven M. Presley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Research Coordinator, Texas Tech University Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Lubbock, Texas
When Steve Presley arrived on the South Plains College campus, he knew he wanted to be a cotton farmer and study in the agriculture program. His father had advised him to get a degree before he returned to farming. It was his introduction to Jim Jenkins, professor of agriculture, which opened his eyes to a world of possibilities.
“Jim has been such a good friend, inspiration and mentor,” Presley said. “He is fantastic. I tell people all the time that I was a kid from a small, rural West Texas high school and I learned how to interact with people at South Plains College. I really learned and matured at South Plains and I realized that if you need to study, you study. If you don’t study, then get out of it.”
Presley, a graduate of Abernathy High School, attended SPC from 1978-80 and received an associate of science degree in agriculture. He transferred to Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in animal production. Presley received a master of science degree in veterinary entomology and doctorate of philosophy degree in medical entomology from Oklahoma State University in 1985 and 1987, respectively. Presley also received a master of military studies degree from the U.S. Marine Corps University in June 1996.
Presley said that while studying at Texas Tech, he spent a summer counting fields for crop insects with a friend who majored in entomology. Presley enrolled in a couple of entomology classes the following semester.
“I was going to start a master’s program in entomology but the department head left Texas Tech and went to Missouri,” Presley said.
So he continued his studies at Oklahoma State where he pursued his advanced degrees. While in Stillwater, he said he knew several people who had gone to work for the military. Presley had spent the previous year as a business consultant, but decided he didn’t want to stay in one place. He wanted to see the world.
So he joined the military and spent the next 13 years in the Navy where he studied infectious diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever. As a medical entomologist, his assignments have included working for the Navy Disease Vector Ecology and Control Center at Navy Air Stations in Alameda, Calif., Jacksonville, Fla., and Quantico, Va.
Presley headed the Applied/Field Sciences Division for the Research Sciences Department at the Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo, Egypt for three years after serving as head of the Medical Zoology Branch of Applied/Field Sciences Division.
Presley left the military in 2002 when he took his current job at Texas Tech as associate professor of environmental toxicology and research coordinator for the Admiral Elmo Zumwalt National Program for Countermeasures to Biological and Chemical Threats.
In this capacity, Presley oversees six graduate students in the lab where the research ranges from studying trans-dynamics of the West Nile virus, developing autonomous biological detectors/sensors, coordinating administrative aspects of 11 different biological/chemical threat countermeasures projects as well as environmental and human health initiatives in Vietnam and Kuwait.
“When I’m not in the lab conducting research, I have been called upon to interact with local and state health departments on a variety of environmental health issues,” Presley said.
Presley made three trips in 2006 to New Orleans to assess the environmental and human health hazards resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Since May 2007, he has served as the chairman of the Right-to-Know and Certifications Committee with the Lubbock County Emergency Planning Committee. He was an invited participant in the Texas Department of Public Service Governor’s Division of Emergency Management Pandemic Influenza Tabletop Exercise in November 2006. He serves as a member of the City of Lubbock Health Department’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Planning Committee.
Presley has worked directly with the Lubbock County Judge and Local Emergency Preparedness Response Coordinator to develop and implement an operational training exercise for biological and chemical incidents. He has served as a member of the Planning Committee for the Regional Response Plan of the South Plains Association of Governments. He currently serves as a member of the Emergency Responders Advisory Committee/First Responders Task Force for SPAG.
Presley has provided interviews for numerous local, state and national newspaper, radio and television outlets on a wide range of topics and issues including avian influenza, New Orleans post-Katrina, plague, tularemia, West Nile virus/fever, zoonotic pathogen threats to the community and others.
For his professional contributions, Presley received the Rear Admiral Charles S. Stephenson Award for Excellence in Preventive Medicine for 2000-01. The award is the most competitive worldwide U.S. Navy Medical Department honor. Presley, a Navy lieutenant commander, has received various U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personal and unit decorations honors.
In his current role as research associate at the TTU Institute for Environmental and Human Health, he has received $1.2 million in research grants as a principal investigator and $1.2 million in grants as a co-principal investigator. In the past five years, he has made numerous scholarly presentations related the environmental toxicology and biological and chemical threat countermeasures, including addressing the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee in Geneva, Switzerland.
Presley and his wife, Teresa, have three children: Anthony, a computer software developer; Asa, a biology student at Texas Tech; and Audrey, a student at SPC. The Presleys also have two grandsons, Blaze, 6, and Christian, 9.