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In Memoriam

Ronald L. Hayes, Ph.D.  APRIL 23, 1944 – NOVEMBER 13, 2023

Ron Hayes passed away unexpectedly on November 13, 2023. Ron served as President of the NNS (1995-1996). Ron stayed close to his hometown of Portsmouth, VA earning a BA in Classical Studies and Philosophy at the University of Richmond and a PhD in Physiological Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. During this academic journey he joined the Virginia Air National Guard earning his wings as a jet fighter pilot. In graduate school he studied endogenous opioids and nociception under David Mayer and continued in that field as a scientist at the NIH. Around 1980, the Division of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Virginia recruited Ron to lead the TBI labs where he and Japanese research fellow, Yoichi Katayama performed seminal studies in traumatic unconsciousness and coma.

Ed Dixon and I were Ron’s first graduate students at MCV starting in 1983. I found Ron to be brilliant, insightful, energetic, sometimes impatient, but always warm-hearted. He always had incredible stories; tales of adventures traveling to scientific meetings – rarely did he travel without something unusual happening. He loved fast cars and bought an Acura only because it out-performed David Mayer’s Toyota Celica!

Ron confided to me that one of his favorite eras in science was with his MCV group of Doug DeWitt, Larry Jenkins, Ed Dixon, Linda Phillips and me on the 9th floor of Sanger Hall. Ron led our scientific inquiry into acetylcholine and glutamate receptor-mediated secondary injury cascades. This period was enriched by the many talented research fellows from Japan, Europe, South America, and China that passed through Ron’s laboratory. Thanks to Ron’s leadership, they developed into productive scientists with many becoming leaders in the field of TBI. His students and colleagues learned so much from Ron about scientific method, writing, securing funding, and the utter joy of scientific discovery.

Ron defined himself in many ways: philosopher, scientist, warrior in the battle against crippling brain injuries and later described himself as " a closet philosopher and classicist. It may be unconventional training for a scientist, but it has served me very well."

By Bruce Lyeth, PhD, Professor Emeritus, UC-Davis Neurosurgery


I got acquainted with Ron about 1997 – while I was still at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical.  I fondly remembered that Ron and his then graduate student Rand Postmantur reached out to me to collaborate as we were all fascinated by the role of calpain in TBI.  That led to two R01 grants in which I served as subaward PI at Parke-Davis – Such as arrangement in big pharma was practically unheard of -  it was only possible because of Ron’s optimism, thinking outside the box and his “why-not’ attitude.  That attitude also led to my joining him and Dr. Nancy Denslow at University of Florida and the McKnight Brain Institute.  In 2001-2002, with input from my pharma industry background, A light bulb went up in our heads that there is really an unmet need for blood-based biomarker tests for to help manage TBI patients.  With the help of his friend and WRAIR contact Dr. Frank Tortella – we got the first ever DOD funded proteomic-based TBI biomarker discovery grant, which was followed by the NIH funded clinical TBI biomarker validation study in partnership with Baylor’s Claudia Robertson and University of Florida’s Steve Robicsek.  Pioneering biomarker discovery was hard, but for a PhD like Ron and I to conduct a clinical study was ten times harder – but Ron had a vision and determination that to make a difference in the field in TBI, this was really where it needed to go.  As they say, the rest is history, together we co-founded a spinoff company Banyan Biomarkers with the vision to develop the first-ever blood test for TBI and concussion. The Banyan brain injury test based on the tandem biomarkers UCH-L1/GFAP secured FDA clearance in February 2018 and completed a license with Abbott Laboratories that led to the marketing of their i-STAT TBI plasma test and the CE marking of Biomerieux’s TBI test.  I know that bringing a diagnostic test to the bedside from start to finish is truly a proud moment we both share – as he would say to me “We did it!”.  He has many other memorable quotes – such as academia researchers need to focus on “pubs and grants”, and on writing an effective grant, just “keep it simple stupid”.  Some of my favorite memories of him at scientific conferences are that instead of sitting inside of conference rooms listening to talks, he seemed to spend more time outside of the rooms networking with others and forming new collaborations!

Ron has been a great mentor to me and others.  Ron’s classic language and philosophy training really showed in his well-articulated speeches.  It was a privilege for me to know and to learn from him not only on how to be a good translational researcher but also to be a better communicator and to approach life and science with unwavering optimism.

By Kevin K.W. Wang, PhD, Professor & Vice Chair of Neurobiology, Morehouse School of Medicine


This memoriam was adapted from a tribute to Ron Hayes published in the Journal of Neurotrauma 41 (1-2), 1-2, 2024


Dr. Mary Bartlett Bunge

Dr. Mary Bartlett Bunge passed away on February 17th, 2024. Dr. Bunge was a very special person and dedicated scientist who, since 1989, was an important member of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the University of Miami academic community and served as Vice President of the National Neurotrauma Society from 2000-2001.  Dr. Bunge developed a passion for biology at an early age while she was observing tadpoles swimming around her and questioned how they developed into frogs. During her junior college year, she was further inspired by a summer school in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she was first exposed to tissue culture. After graduating from Boston’s Simmons College in 1953, she accepted an invitation to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, where she graduated with a master’s degree in medical physiology in 1955 and a doctorate in 1960. While at the University of Wisconsin, Mary met a medical student named Richard Bunge whom she married and shared her career. Working together, Mary and Richard published the first evidence of remyelination by oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord in 1961. Together, they moved to Columbia University in New York, where they began their career-long work on the biology of Schwann cells. In New York, their two sons, Jonathan, and Peter, were born. Mary was one of the earliest to master electron microscopy, which combined her passion for cell biology with artistic expression and allowed her to first observe synapses in tissue culture. After moving to Boston for a sabbatical at Harvard, the family moved to St. Louis in 1970 to accept faculty positions at Washington University School of Medicine, where in 1974, Mary was promoted with tenure to associate professor of cell biology, neurological surgery, and neurology and, in 1978, became professor.  

During these Saint Louis years, Mary and her research team made several important discoveries while focusing on Schwann cells in tissue culture and their ability to wrap around peripheral axons to form the myelin sheath that acts to increase the speed of impulse conduction down the axon. Through their meticulous use of tissue culture, methods were found to isolate Schwann cells from neurons, which led to new hypotheses regarding repairing the nervous system after injury.  In 1989, the Bunge’s were recruited to the University of Miami where Dr. Richard Bunge became the Scientific Director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. During these years, the Bunge laboratory focused on determining whether Schwann cell transplantation into the injured spinal cord would promote successful axonal regeneration by making the injured tissue more permissive for successful axonal growth.  Mary mentored a succession of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who paved the way through translational studies for current and future FDA-approved clinical trials using autologous human Schwann cells as a novel strategy to repair the spinal cord and peripheral nerves after severe trauma.  Dr. Richard Bunge passed away in 1996, but Mary continued the work through to its clinical realization to support recovery in people after spinal cord injury. Together, they greatly elevated the scientific standing of the Miami Project, which was formed in 1985. 

Dr. Mary Bunge received many national and international honors during her career, including the Wakeman Award for spinal cord injury repair, and was a three-time recipient of the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. She was elected chair of the of the Society for Neuroscience Development of Women’s Careers in Neuroscience Committee from 1994-2002. Mary was a member of the National Neurotrauma Society, serving as Vice President 2000-2001, and participated in Woman in Neurotrauma at its inception. In 2000, she received the Mika Salpeter Women in Neuroscience Lifetime Achievement Award for her leadership in advancing the careers of women in neuroscience. In 2001, she received the Christopher Reeve Research Medal for Spinal Cord Injury Repair. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and was awarded the Health Care Hero Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Miami Chapter Chamber of Commerce. She also received the Christine Lynn Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience Award in 2003 and the Lois Pope LIFE International Research Award in 2005. Upon receiving this award, she donated the money to the University of Miami to establish a lecture series to bring prominent women researchers doing groundbreaking work in cell biology to serve as role models to our campus annually. In 2012, Dr. Bunge received the University of Miami Faculty Senate Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award. The American Spinal Injury Association awarded Drs. Richard and Mary Bunge with the lifetime achievement award in 2018.  On February 6, 2024, the 19th Annual Mary Bartlett Bunge Distinguished Women in Cell Biology Lecture was held. Dr. Bunge listened to this special lecture emphasizing her enduring passion for science until her age of 92.  

In addition to these many accomplishments and honors, Dr. Bunge was an incredible teacher and mentor. She trained numerous graduate and postdoctoral fellows who went on to become leaders in the fields of cell biology, neuroscience, and Schwann cell transplantation. Dr. Mary Bunge will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her and had the privilege of learning from this special scholar who contributed so much to her scientific field.

W. Dalton Dietrich, PhD, and the entire Miami Project Scientific Community      


Dr. Xiao-Ming Xu

In 2023, the National Neurotrauma Society (NNS), in a joint effort with the Chinese Neurotrauma Scholar Association (CNSA) announced the establishment of the “NNS Dr. Xiao-Ming Xu Diversity Memorial Award”. This award serves to honor Dr. Xiao-Ming Xu, an internationally-renowned scientist for his significant contributions to the advancements in spinal cord injury (SCI) research and his unwavering support of diversity trainees.

Dr. Xu received his graduate education in China and the United States. He received his Medical Diploma and a master’s degree from Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine (previously known as Shanghai Second Medical University).  He subsequently completed his Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology at The Ohio State University in 1990, and a postdoctoral fellowship in 1994, under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Bunge, at the Miami project to Cure Paralysis, University of Miami.

In 1994, Dr. Xu accepted his first faculty position in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at St. Louis University, achieving the rank of Associate Professor.  In 2001, he was recruited to the University of Louisville, where he was named the James R. Petersdorf Endowed Chair in the Department of Neurological Surgery and helped establish the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center as he transitioned from Associate to Full Professor.

Since 2007, Dr. Xu served as the Scientific Director of the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Division at Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, Professor and Mari Hulman George Chair of Neurological Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and a Research Career Scientist at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.  His research focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to secondary injury after SCI with the objective of developing neuroprotective and neurorestorative strategies to improve neurological outcomes.  He championed the pathway toward regeneration, using research that relied on diverse biochemical, physiological and bioengineering approaches.  This is exemplified in his studies that examined cell transplantation, gene therapy, and tissue engineering, with the objective of promoting axonal regrowth, myelination, and the restoration of function.

Dr. Xu served as the Editor-in-Chief of the cross-disciplinary journal, Neural Regeneration Research (  This platform was effective in bringing together researchers from different disciplines, including neuroscience, molecular biology, chemistry, immunology, and bioengineering, to address the broad biological challenges imposed by SCI.  Such collaborations generated significant impact by fostering innovation and a clear pathway toward therapeutic breakthroughs.  This was also the foundation for the establishment of the International Neural Regeneration Symposium for which Dr. Xu served as co-chair from 2011-2020.

Throughout his career, Dr. Xu promoted national and international interdisciplinary collaborations, which represented a rich diversity of talented scientists.  He actively mentored and educated the next generation of scientists including undergraduates, graduate/medical students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty members.  In order to prioritize and support under-represented students and trainees, Dr.

Xu served as a regular committee member for the NIH Diversity K award and NINDS Diversity K01 and K22 applications.  And, as the Founding President of the CNSA, established in 2010, Dr. Xu’s leadership, vision, and commitment to advancing neurotrauma research, has created an environment that has fostered networking opportunities at all levels of expertise, promoting knowledge sharing and professional development.  These collective efforts have served to build a bridge of knowledge that has advanced our understanding of mechanisms underlying loss of function and aberrant pain, critically important steps in the identification of novel therapeutics that are specifically tailored to SCI and neurotrauma.  Dr. Xu has been recognized by a number of awards, including his listing in the “World’s Top 2% of Scientists 2020”, an honor that speaks to his dedication and accomplishments in the field. 


Lisa Xu, MD, Daughter of Dr. Xiao-Ming Xu

Wei Wu, MD, PhD, Board member of CNSA (2022-2023)

Zezong Gu, MD, PhD, President of CNSA (2021-2023)

Linda J Noble-Haeusslein, PhD, Professor, Departments of Neurology and Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

On behalf of the CNSA Board and NNS Program Committee

Dr. Harvey Levin

Harvey Steven Levin, PhD passed away peacefully on April 1, 2022.

He was born on Dec. 12, 1946, in New York City to Nathan and Mary Levin. A graduate of the City College of New York, he earned a doctorate in psychology at the University of Iowa under the tutelage of Arthur Benton, Ph.D. and completed his internship in psychology at the Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.

Harvey was a board-certified neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist and joined the faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he began an internationally renowned career in clinical work, teaching, and, most of all, pioneering research on traumatic brain injury. In 1995, Harvey established the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine within the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which was supported by federal grants, including funding from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CNL integrates rehabilitation and neuroplasticity research with multimodality brain imaging, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology. The lab focuses on multidisciplinary TBI research involving adult and pediatric populations and has pursued both observational studies and clinical trials. Harvey researched sports-related concussion, and in his joint appointment at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Harvey also researched mTBI sustained by veterans in combat. Click here to read the memoriam in full. 

Dr. Marion Murray

I am sad to inform you that Dr. Marion Murray, professor emeritus in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, passed away on September 9 following complications of esophageal cancer.

Dr. Murray was a founding member of our Spinal Cord Research Center, leading its research activities for over 30 years to create one of the most prominent centers in the United States. She inspired and mentored countless students, fellows and faculty, established a world-class research program and published more than 150 scientific articles and reviews. She exemplified a scientific leader who passionately confronted significant problems for human health and then generously shared her knowledge with others. The focus of her research was on neuroplasticity and its relation to recovery of function after spinal cord injury, studying the role of axonal regeneration and sprouting, neuroprotection, and restoration of function lost following injury.

Dr. Murray received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin in physiology and did her postdoctoral work at McGill University in anatomy and at the Rockefeller University in neurobiology. She was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Chicago, and in 1973 moved to our predecessor school the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Motivated by the devastating impact of damage to the spinal cord on patients and their families, Dr. Murray and her colleague the late Dr. Michael Goldberger forged an interactive group to discover the mechanisms of injury and interventions towards recovery of function in this major clinical problem. Under her leadership, the center established multidisciplinary research training in spinal cord injury and created a program that has had international impact, with influence in basic and translational neuroscience beyond her initial vision.

Dr. Murray received numerous awards, including the NIH Javits Neurosciences Investigator Award, the Fogarty Fellowship, the MCPHU Research Achievement Award and, most recently, the Reeve-Irvine Research Award. She served on the editorial boards of scientific journals such as Experimental Neurology and Journal of Comparative Neurology; on scientific review committees, including for the NIH and the VA; and as the scientific director of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, one of the major private foundations focused on spinal cord injury.

By Itzhak Fischer, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy

College of Medicine, Drexel University

Raymond Grill, PhD

On May 30, 2018 we lost a truly remarkable person when Raymond Grill, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. Following our announcement of his passing, we witnessed an outpouring of sorrow from Ray’s friends, students, and fellow scientists. To us, Ray was a gifted scientist, tireless mentor, valued member in our scientific community, an early member and ardent supporter of Mission Connect. One of his former student’s, Jennifer Dulin, Ph.D., shared her thoughts with her fellow members of Mission Connect. No one could have described Ray more accurately and I would like to share this with you.

“Ray was a very rare type of individual who has been a force for good in the lives of practically everyone who has known him. He was an unusually selfless person who was fully dedicated to helping others. He always, always kept the focus of his work tightly centered on the issue of “How is this going to improve the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury?” It can sometimes be easy to lose track of the real-world relevance of our research, but Ray never let his students forget it. He was a moral compass in that sense. He was in this business for no other reason than his burning need to figure out ways to help ease some of the burdens carried by these individuals and their loved ones. This is the mindset we should all keep.

Aside from research, he was also a uniquely compassionate person who gave himself fully to everyone who asked of him. He has taken so much of his time to give advice, lend an ear, and mentor an immense number of students/trainees/junior faculty over the years. He has helped many of his friends to cope and pull through during times of crisis. He was always nonjudgmental, loving and kind, but honest, practical and straightforward. He really, really cared about people, and would do anything in his power to help those who fell on hard times. I think that there is no greater or nobler thing you can do in life than that.”

By Cynthia Adkins

Executive Director, TIRR Foundation

Timothy Schallart, PhD

Timothy Schallert, age 68, died on May 29, 2018 at his home in Austin Texas, with his wife, Diane, and sons, Robbie and Kellan, by his side. He had advanced Parkinson's Disease. Tim received his PhD in 1976 working with Ernest P. Lindholm at Arizona State University, followed by postdoctoral training with Ian Q. Whishaw at the University of Lethbridge and Philip Teitelbaum at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. In 1979 he joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until he retired and was named Professor Emeritus in 2017. He was also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and Adjunct Research Scientist at Henry Ford Health Medical Center.

Tim was broadly interested in brain-behavioral interactions, especially in the context of neural repair and plasticity responses to CNS injury and neurodegeneration. He was prolific, authoring more than 250 articles, which have been cited more than 20 thousand times. His discoveries that behavioral manipulations potently affect degenerative and regenerative responses to CNS damage had profound impact in shaping current understanding of the experience-dependency of these processes.

That Tim was often called a "rat neurologist" or " rat whisperer" reflects that he was also a driving force in the behavioral level refinement of rodent models of CNS injury and disease. He developed or helped refine many of the sensitive assays now in common use with such models, including the Schallert cylinder, bilateral tactile stimulation (a.k.a. "sticky tape"), ledged tapered beam, vermicelli handling, and corner tests.

Tim leaves behind a large scientific family of adoring colleagues, collaborators and mentees. To us, Tim was not merely a great scientist, he was a seemingly indefatigable force of nature, a wildly inspiring communicator, a role model, a champion, a person with whom it was endlessly fun to talk science, and a very dear friend who is now deeply and painfully missed.

By Theresa A. Jones, PhD

Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Dennis M. Feeney, PhD

Dennis M. Feeney, age 76, passed away peacefully at home with his wife Marilyn at his side on Saturday, April 7, 2018. He had a long distinguished career as both a scientist and teacher. Receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1962 in Experimental Psychology at the Pennsylvania State University he went on to receive a Masters of Arts in Psychology at Kent State University in Ohio from 1962-1964. Receiving his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1968 he stayed on for a full year to complete his postdoctoral training at the UCLA Brain Research Institute.

Dr. Feeney settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1970 when he joined the faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico.

Dennis enjoyed his associations with A. Earl Walker, M.D. who, came to the University of New Mexico after retiring as Chair of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. Together they addressed many issues related to epilepsy and the topic of brain death. However, Dr. Feeney’s main interest was the impact catecholamines had on recovery after experimental cortical lesions the brain.

During his tenure, Dennis wrote many articles related to the topic of recovery of function. One of his most seminal papers appeared in SCIENCE in 1982 where he and his students reported how amphetamine, haloperidol and experience interacted to affect the rate of recovery from motor cortex injury in rodents.

Dr. Feeney had a great influence on his students instilling a sense of morality and ethics while, at the same time, demanding effort for the advancement of science that he expected of himself even though he was paraplegic since 1973. It was always a joy to come to Dr. Feeney’s laboratory. One would always have the ability to experience the excitement of doing something no one else has ever done before. As a student, you could depend on Dr. Feeney to give you advice on all matters of science including philosophy.

In closing, those of us who worked with Dr. Feeney will miss his compassion and love for science, while fighting all the battles associated with being paraplegic for 45 years. We, who worked with him, adopted Dennis as a scientific father who cared, and yes, even loved us, as if we were part of his family.

By David Hovda, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair of Academic Affairs, UCLA

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